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MS details Memphis, NT 5.0

Microsoft shows off several new features planned for its Windows 95 update, code-named Memphis, and Windows NT Workstation 5.0, due early next year.

ORLANDO, Florida--Microsoft (MSFT) today showed off several new features planned for its Windows 95 update and Windows NT Workstation 5.0, which is due early next year.

Memphis, as the latest Windows 95 version is known, is set to enter a second round of beta testing next month, according to the company.

A key feature of both Memphis and NT 5.0 is the blending of traditional directory tree file viewing and a Web-like interface. Microsoft is now calling this blending "WebView," said Bernard Wong, a product manager for Microsoft's Windows desktop systems, speaking at the company's TechEd conference here.

WebView adds an additional frame to the standard Windows Explorer to give users additional information in HTML format, among other uses. For instance, when the mouse pointer is placed on a drive icon, the WebView frame will show a graphical depiction of disk space used.

Another Web feature, Active Desktop, allows Web content to be placed on the Windows desktop. For instance, an ActiveX component running in a Web page, such as a video clip or stock ticker, can be placed on the desktop so that it is always visible.

A major feature discussed by Wong is aimed at smoothing the blend of TV and Web data. Both Memphis and Windows NT 5.0 Workstation will include a feature called Enhanced PC that allows for broadcast video and Web data to be displayed in the same browser window. Developers can then build applications that receive video news broadcasts with a stock ticker ActiveX control on the same page, for instance.

Another new feature is called Windows Scripting Host. It lets users write scripts, in either VBScript of JavaScript languages, to automate desktop applications. Wong compared the capability to DOS batch applications, which are traditionally used to log onto networks and move files. Windows Scripting Host will provide the same functions as batch commands but will work in both graphical and character mode, Wong added. It will also support existing scripts written in Rexx, Perl, and other languages.

Also new is a feature called WebShare, which caches Web data and other network information onto users' hard drives. The technology synchronizes local files and live Net files to give users a consistent view of networked files. It allows users to work on networked files while disconnected from the network and synchronize them when they log back on.

Both Memphis and Windows NT 5.0 Workstation will support multiple displays so that users can expand their desktop real estate to two or more monitors. Users can select whether to expand their desktop onto additional monitors vertically or horizontally. Also, multiple monitor resolutions will be supported so that Web developers can test Web pages in multiple resolutions.

Other new features are aimed at system administrators. One feature, called Code Download Manager, lets Web servers determine if Web clients have proper drivers and pieces of system software installed to support various forms of content. If the proper software is not found on client systems, it is downloaded from the server and removed, if desired, when the application is finished.

Super SysEdit, another admin feature, extends the current SysEdit tool to let administrators use check boxes and select which drivers and other software should be loaded at start-up.

Microsoft is also appealing to help desk staff with the Windows Management Instrumentation, which collects device performance information and passes it on to system performance monitoring tools through the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and other protocols. Another help desk feature, code-named Eyedog, collects local performance and problem-reporting information and sends it over the Web to administrators.

Memphis is due to manufacturing by the fourth quarter, said Wong. NT 5.0 Workstation will enter beta testing by midyear and will ship in 1998, he added.