Although the company isn't planning a full makeover of Windows 95 in 1996, Microsoft will offer two updates plus an add-on this year that will increase the operating system's access to both commercial online services and the Web.
By the summer, hardware manufacturers will receive the first update of Windows 95, called "OSR 2" (OEM service release). This version will come with new software for America Online, CompuServe, and CompuServe?s novice-oriented Wow service.
OSR2 will also come with hardware device drivers, bug fixes, and FAT32 (file allocation table), system software that will enable better management of disk space on PCs with larger than 2GB drives. Consumers will be able to purchase PCs with the updated OS by the fall.
Microsoft officials also said an OSR 3 version of Windows 95 will be released to manufacturers by the end of the year but wouldn't provide details on its features.
In the meantime, however, Microsoft this summer will also begin beta testing an add-on to Windows 95--code-named Nashville--that will merge Windows Explorer with the Internet Explorer Web browser. Nashville will allow users to browse local files and Web sites seamlessly through one interface. The company has not set final shipment dates and distribution plans for Nashville, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.