Microsoft has outlined its plans for the next generation of the Windows 9x operating systems, culminating with plans to phase it out by 2000.
The Memphis version of Windows 95, now called Windows 98, is expected to be replaced by a consumer version of the Windows NT operating system by 2000. This move will avoid the embarrassing situation of having to call the version of Windows beyond 2000, Windows 0.
The move to Windows 98 will give users a migration path towards this consumer version of the NT operating system by introducing the Universal Driver Model.
This is an API for writing applications and device drivers which support both 16-bit and 32-bit applications and device drivers. Microsoft said the API will also be available on the Windows CE handheld OS.
Moving to a single API between the three varieties of the Windows operating system should eliminate problems with backwards compatibility that Windows has suffered until now.
However, progress is slow since the tools required to build applications and device drivers that run across all these Windows platforms are only just starting to appear.
In the meantime, Microsoft recommends users who are not currently running 16-bit Windows applications to upgrade to NT 4.0 immediately. Otherwise, they will have to wait until Windows 98 which will still support 16-bit device drivers.
The company's ambition for the Windows operating system is to offer "a process of reinvention", according to Paul Maritz, group vice president of platforms and applications. The company plans to enhance all layers of the operating system to provide Windows on an increasing number of computer devices ranging from mainframes to consumer electronics devices.
The "continuous reinvention" strategy begins with Windows 98, which provides backwards compatibility with existing applications and aims to reduce the total cost of owning PCs. To achieve this Microsoft will offer a number of self-maintenance tools, including a file checker which tracks changes in order to restore the system when it falls over.
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