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Windows 98 Second Edition to be released today

First mentioned in March, out in May, as we suggested. It's taken MS about two months to develop - apparently.

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Windows 98 Second Edition will be announced today, making it indisputably Microsoft's fastest ever operating system development. It goes into manufacturing this week, and is expected in the stores next month, with a US price of $89.95. But it will be possible for existing users of Windows 98 to buy an upgrade CD via Microsoft's Web site for $19.95. This isn't a bad deal for an upgrade to a new operating system, but of course 98 SE is nothing of the sort. Microsoft was able to move from first rumours of SE (Register predicts Q2 shipment) to production this fast because the company has essentially just added the odd bit of chrome and wire wheels to the Windows 98 service pack. The service pack will be available for free, one major difference between it and SE being Internet sharing technology, which will allow several machines on home networks to use the same Internet connection. Is that worth $20? Sometimes when Microsoft wants to push new features, e.g. IE or ISDN support way back in the early days of 95, they came as free downloads and on more promotional CDs than you could shake a stick at. But with Windows 2000 locked in development for months yet (despite recent beta attacks), and looking not entirely suited for home users, Microsoft needed a stop gap product. And some stop-gap revenue, we cynics reckon. And note something else. Microsoft has done free downloads, and despite vast file sizes is pretty well on top of the technology. But it hasn't done that much of selling from its Web site to large numbers of users, or at least what it hopes will be large numbers of users. The $19.95 a pop may come in handy for the war chest, but getting the sales mechanisms up and running is probably far more important to MS than that. Once the company gets it right, we predict MS will try to sell you lots more stuff direct off the Web. And, it says here, SE is also going to include new electronic commerce support. What a coincidence. ®

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