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Surfing Silicon Valley: Win98 -- where's the innovation?

From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

April 23, 1998
Web posted at: 12:04 PM EDT (1204 GMT)

(CNN) -- This is not a criticism.

It's a lament.

I got a good hard look at Windows 98 this week. What's the fuss about? Why is the Justice Department fretting over this software? Why is Microsoft charging $109 for it?

After conferring with folks known for their PC expertise and looking long and hard on my own, I've come to this realization: there isn't much there.

Larry Magid, seen elsewhere in this section, dubbed it "Windows 95.5," or at best "Windows 97." He calls the changes "under the hood." It may run programs faster. But with chip speeds racing past 400mhz, is that important?

Mostly, it seems "Win98" is a compilation of other fun stuff that's become popular and useful. For example, Windows 98 will compare your software with current versions and download updates. Oil Changer does that now. Or you can have your PC automatically defragment the hard drive during off-hours. Norton Utilities does that too.

Here's some good news. Win98 supports the Universal Serial Bus, which will let you plug in anything at any time with ease. It's long overdue.

Yes, I saw the Chicago Crash. So what? Besides, the likelihood of a computer crash rises exponentially with the importance of the demonstration/demonstrator.

During a story meeting this week, one of our staff members asked why plugging stuff into your computer can't be as easy as plugging stuff into your stereo. Good point!

As to the so-very-controversial integration of Internet Explorer: a flick of a wrist swaps IE out and Netscape in.

I write this with a heavy heart: Where's the innovation? As vilified as "Win95" was for its copycat Macintosh look, it was still a significant advancement in ease of use, simplicity on the screen and progress toward plug and play. Over at the "other OS" when Apple released OS8, it represented major benefits over the 7 series. A day with Windows 98 does not show similar improvements.

Surf on ...


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