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MS to ship new Win98 in May – annual rental here we come?

As we said in the first place, bundling bugfixes and enhancements is a lot easier than building a new OS

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Microsoft has confirmed our original suspicion (Next version of Win98 due in Q2?) that it was planning a quick and dirty run for Q2 shipment of Win98 Second Edition. At WinHEC this week the company revealed the 'new' product is now to ship in May. Microsoft also confirmed earlier this week rumours that there would be future versions of 9x, and the idea of converging onto Win2k's codebase was now at the very least postponed. But the company has been running a softening-up process on both this and the mysterious appearance of Second Edition as a product rather than a service pack for the past couple of months. The convergence plan as outlined by Bill Gates himself last year at WinHEC had Windows 98 as being the last iteration, to be replaced by a consumer OS based on Win2k. But that roadblocked Microsoft's plans pretty effectively, as it meant first the company had to get Win2k out of the door and then it had to build a version that ran great games and didn't need vast quantities of hardware, among other things. The do-ability of this was such that the consumer OS couldn't seriously have been expected until 2002-3, and funnily enough, this is now the timeframe Microsoft is talking about for consumer NT/Win2k. But no doubt that will slip. With the roadblock for the moment removed/postponed, Microsoft is now free to do a couple of things. As we anticipated, a quick refresh of Windows 98 code plus a few fixes, new stuff like IE5 and scope for xDSL communications can be shipped out quite quickly. Having softened up people to expect a new, paid-for, OS rather than a free service pack (Yusuf Mehdi said late summer or early autumn just a few weeks ago at the IE5 launch, so you can see the ratchet in operation), Microsoft can roll out a neat revenue-generating retail product. We should watch out for attempts to squeeze 'upgrade' dollars out of corporate customers too, because that's where the big money is. And because the job is relatively simple, Microsoft can get a 'new' OS out the door just a year after it shipped the last one. Add some more useful new stuff in order to create the next version of 9x that's planned to ship in 2000, and it can do it again. So Microsoft is ever so gently reducing the amount of service, bugfix and enhancement code you can download for free, bundling it together into 'this year's model,' and, magically, you're moving towards that annual rental model MS said was just an idea. You read it here first. ®

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