The launch of Windows 98 last week was met with a mixed reaction from users and industry analysts.
Computer shops around the world stayed open until the early hours to sell the new operating system as soon as it was available on 25 June.
The first shops to sell the software were in Australia, where the first copy, signed by Bill Gates, was sold. But corporate users have shown less enthusiasm for the upgrade, opting to wait for the next release of Windows NT, due next year.
"It's not going to take off in the corporate market as much as Windows 95 did," predicted James Eibisch, principal analyst at Input. "Talking to large companies, the general feeling is that people are putting off upgrades until NT 5 is released. Even Windows 95 hasn't been fully embraced: there are still a lot of Windows 3.1 installations out there."
The pricing of Windows 98 has also come under heavy fire. Critics argue that Windows 98 is nothing more than a collection of bug fixes for Windows 95 with browser integration thrown in, and that the new hardware drivers available were promised for Windows 95. However, the software has been priced similarly to the previous version.
Mike Welch, analyst at Inteco, argued that Windows 98 is not worth the money. "A key point is that Windows 95 was a major leap forward (from Windows 3.x), but 98 is a relatively minor upgrade," he said. "It's really a maintenance upgrade, nothing that you'd expect to pay a lot for. It's hard to see where the upgraders are going to come from, although people buying a new PC won't have a choice."
Inteco's Eibisch agreed. "It's essentially what Windows 95 should always have been," he said. "I can't see companies upgrading just for the integrated browser, especially as a lot of companies are already accessing data through other built-in browsers (such as that in Lotus Notes). Are users going to pay for corrections to Windows 95?"
ANTI-WINDOWS 98 RALLY
In an amusing sideline to the Windows 98 launch, the Silicon Valley Linux User Group (SVLUG) staged a rally outside a large computer shop in Silicon Valley in the early hours of the 25 June, handing out free Linux CDs and evangelising about the merits of the free Unix-based operating system to those who turned up to buy Windows 98 as soon as it came out. A similar rally was held at a CompUSA store near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A baffled employee was quoted as saying: "If your marketing people had just called us up we could have accommodated your company." An SVLUG member claimed: "Not (one) person that we saw coming out of (the shop) bought Windows 98! Someone who works there told me people weren't there for Windows 98, they just wanted the special deals."
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