SHCC WYSIWYG Article from May 1998

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This article appeared in the May 1998 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Windows 98

by Rick Schummer

The hype has been pounding for the last few months on the upcoming Windows 98 release from Microsoft.  The release is scheduled for June 25, 1998.  Microsoft will create the final copy to be burned into millions of CDs starting May 15th.  Is the latest and greatest new Operating System (OS) worth it?  As many people in the computer industry say, "It depends".

Beta Testing
First of all, Microsoft has redefined the concept of beta testing.  For those unfamiliar with this concept, this is the secret process where a certain type of user will take a piece of software before it is ready for general consumption and use it.  These users know that at any time the software may not work.  It is their responsibility to find the problems so people who buy the product when it hits the stores don't run into these issues.

Microsoft now calls this phase of software testing as "Pre-release".  This phase of the testing has become a little more public in the last few years.  It has been made part of the marketing process to hype a new product or big release.  Microsoft is also charging people for this product.  The Windows 98 Pre-release was available for a measly $35.00 (cost of materials according to Microsoft).  Granted, you could only buy a late beta product that is close to the final version and typically free of most disastrous bugs.  It is also cheap by anyone's standard for a product as complicated as an OS.  If you have ever beta tested, this process takes an enormous amount of time.  The benefits are that you get a head start on the product, which can be a business advantage.  Some of the best bug finders are rewarded with a copy of the final version of the product as well.  This will vary by software company.

Windows 98 Minimum System Requirements:
· 486DX / 66 MHz or higher processor.
· 16 MB of memory; more memory improves performance.
· Typical installation requires approximately 195 MB of free hard disk space, but may range between 120 MB to 295 MB, depending on your system configuration and the options you choose to install.
· CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive (3.5" high-density disks available for additional charge).
· VGA or higher-resolution monitor.
· Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device.

Please note that these are the minimum system requirements.

What is Included
Overall, there are a couple thousand improvements incorporated in Windows 98 from Windows 95.  In general it was built to help your PC work better and play better.  Some general topics from the Microsoft website:
· Use the Internet more naturally
· Plug in add-on equipment such as scanners, joysticks, or video cameras and have them work instantly.  This is a new kind of connection technology called the Universal Serial Bus (USB)
· Play games with gusto with new multimedia technologies
· Recapture a large chunk of space on your hard drive.  A new file system, called FAT 32, stores files more efficiently to free up hard drive space.  For many users, the result will be an average of 28% more space.
· The new Maintenance Wizard will your system running smoothly.
· With Windows 98 you'll be able to easily retrieve and install updated system files -- such as the driver files used to run your video card and other hardware -- as well as other such as updated Help files.
· Connect more than one monitor to your PC
· All new HTML-based help system

Who is Going to Buy It
Bill Gates and other Microsoft stockholders want Windows 98 on every machine running that meets the minimum requirements, unless it is already running Windows NT 4.0 or a Pre-release of Windows NT 5.0.  The particular target audience is the Windows 3.x crowd with 486s and upgrades for the Pentium owners from Windows 95.  There are several user types available.

There is the "gotta have it" crowd.  These are the fearless, the software developers, the technical support people, the people who need bugs fixed to continue being productive, the geeks, the non-geeks who love a challenge, and the people who enjoy torture.  Many of these people already tested the product during the pre-release.  The rest did not have time, but will preorder a copy to be picked up at Midnight of June 25th.  There are no restrictions to be a member of this crowd, just no base to gain help from if something goes wrong, other than Microsoft and the beta testers.

The wait and see crowd will be next in line.  They may buy it in the afternoon of June 25th.  These are people who will definitely see if the bugs are big.  These people are usually cautious, but will definitely be loading it within 3 months of the release.  They just want to make sure friends have tried it before they load it up.  User group members can be sure that other user group members will be there to help within a short time.

Then there is always the "I don't need the new stuff" crowd.  These are the same people who use 286's because they are afraid of the faster PCs.  These are the people who will use DOS until they cannot find a machine that will boot directly to DOS.  Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with these individuals.  They are comfortable and the technology suits their needs just fine.

The "clueless" crowd is a group out to create humor for the rest of us.  This is a small percentage of the general population (hopefully).  I heard a story that may be an urban legend, but is funny none the less.  A New York TV station interviewed the very first person to walk out of a store with his copy of Windows 95.  When asked why he bought Windows 95 from Microsoft he responded, "I'm not sure, everyone is getting it so I thought I needed it.  I don't have any idea what this actually is".  I bet the ad agency loved this.  Even if this story is not true, you know it could be.

Place me in the "gotta have it" crowd because this is the business that I'm in.  I see some real benefits from this product.  I just hope the beta, sorry, the pre-release testers, and the Microsoft developers did their job and that a solid product is released with the initial version of Windows 98.  I'm sure a Service Pack will hit the streets within 6 to 12 months to fix a couple of major issues.

More Information
There will be plenty of information in PC based magazines and their online websites.  I'm sure we will see news stories in the local papers and TV stations.  There are excellent programs that were outlined in last month's newsletter that will carry information on Windows 98.  Here is an all new website to see what Windows 98 is all about.  Check out http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows98/default.asp

Sales Hype
I get the feeling that the hype will not be as strong as with Windows 95 because of the Department of Justice (DOJ) hanging around.  The interface is not radically changed like it was from Windows 3.x as well.  Microsoft is definitely not shy about launching new products.  My guess is that it will sell like hotcakes.  I'm also guessing that it will benefit many PC owners with all new features and that it is going to move this industry to another level of ease of use.

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