Analysts are suggesting a link between Microsoft?s antitrust trial and the indefinite postponement of its much-hyped Chromeffects Internet technology.
Chromeffects enables users to view rich, interactive multimedia content over the Internet by embedding calls to the Windows DirectX application programming interface (API) into Web pages (see VNU Newswire, 12 September, 1998). DirectX is a low-level Windows API used mainly by games developers.
But the technology is one of only a few that require Intel?s latest and most powerful processors - from the Pentium II upwards.
Rob Enderle, analsyt at Giga Information Group, suggested that Microsoft might be getting even with Intel over its stance during the ongoing antitrust trial against the software giant (see VNU Newswire 13 November, 1998).
"Killing a product a quarter before it was to be released is almost unprecedented and the only company that is really hurt by this move is Intel. The timing is too much of a coincidence. I can?t come up with any other reason why they?d kill this product so late in the game. I certainly see Intel responding," he said.
Analysts elsewhere suggested that Microsoft?s move may have come from a fear of being seen to flout Web standards and as a result of allegations that it was trying to sabotage rivals? multimedia efforts.
But George Olsen, a Web designer at 2-Lane Media and project leader with the Web Standards Project disagreed, saying that Web designers are generally loath to develop content that can only be seen on one platform ? a Windows 98 PC running Internet Explorer.
"Traditionally, for developers, our baseline is last year?s PC, or even the PC of two years ago unless your content is sexy enough that it sends people out to buy new hardware," he added.
But the Chromeffects technology had been widely criticised from the start. It lacked support for Internet standards and placed high demands on hardware, needing to run on a PC with 64 MB of RAM, an Advanced Graphics Port (AGP) card and at least a 300MHz processor.
Microsoft shipped a Software Developers Kit (SDK) for the technology in August to enable Web designers to start creating rich Web content.
But owners of high-powered Windows 98 machines were the only ones that could access the Chromeffects-enabled applications, and the software giant claimed it was such feedback that prompted it to delay the product.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said: "Microsoft has decided to take a step backwards and take a look at the needs of the customers and of the development community."
She continued that Big Green now intended to make Chromeffects comply with Internet standards such as the Document Object Model (DOM) and the proposed HTML+TIME (Timed Interactive Multimedia Extensions for HTML) standard for multimedia on the Web.
Ironically, Microsoft was one of the companies to submit the HTML+TIME proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium in September, together with Compaq and Macromedia.
But, Big Green?s decision to shelve Chromeffects is all the more embarrassing because in September, it suggested it would move the release forward from the first quarter of 1999 to Christmas 1998 to hit the shopping season.
The Microsoft spokeswoman maintained that the Chromeffects project remains alive, however, and would become a feature of a future Windows release, although she would not commit to a ship date.
But the technology will not be included in Windows 2000 Professional (previously known as NT 5.0), which is expected to ship some time in 1999. This pushes the release date to beyond the year 2000.
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