Shipping Windows 98 SE to manufacturers means that PC makers will begin loading the revised operating system on computers which will be available this summer. Microsoft announced the update in March, reversing its earlier stance that Windows 98 would be the last DOS-based consumer operating system release.
Windows 98 users can order an update to SE for $19.95 from Microsoft. The CD-ROM will also be available at computer retailers this summer, a company spokesman said.
The new product has many additions, including home-networking enabler Internet Connection Sharing, Internet Explorer 5, Windows NetMeeting 3, and the Windows 98 Service Pack, which contains bug fixes for the original version of Windows 98. Each of these components except Internet Connection Sharing will be available for free download.
Microsoft has been criticized in some circles for charging users for what is essentially an OS update, especially as it is a departure from past practices. There have been huge leaps in technologies like home networking since Windows 98 was first released last June, Microsoft has argued in the past, so a major revision including Internet Connection Sharing is necessary.
"The upgrade has some things that you would not get from the Windows Update site," said a Microsoft spokesman. Windows 98 SE also includes enhanced support for hardware technologies like USB, IEEE 1394, and broadband network connections.
Windows 98 SE will replace the original version of Windows 98 in retail stores, and will have the same estimated retail price, $109. Most retailers sell Windows 98 for about $89.
Microsoft initially targeted the first quarter of this year for the release of its Windows 98 Service Pack.