Windows 98 learns to share
March 30, 1999
by Scott Spanbauer
(IDG) -- Sell it once, why not sell it again?
Windows 98 debuted last year to general approval, thanks to its many improvements to the basic Win 95 structure. Microsoft has sold millions of copies -- but many upgraders had trouble moving to the new operating system, which is far from bug-free.
Now Microsoft has a chance to get it right. Departing from its usual pattern, the computer-software monolith will release the first major Windows 98 update as a retail product called Windows 98 Second Edition. It combines bug fixes and new features originally planned for separate Windows 98 Service Pack and Service Release updates to vendors. Second Edition will replace current Windows 98 retail versions on store shelves this fall.
According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the new edition will carry the same price as the current one -- about $90 for the upgrade from Windows 95. Current Windows 98 users will be able to order a less expensive upgrade CD-ROM from Microsoft's Web site. However, Microsoft has yet to determine when the disc will ship or how much it will cost. In the past, Microsoft has charged between $10 and $20 for CD-ROM updates such as the Office 97 Service Release and Windows NT service packs. Judging from our hands-on testing with the update's second beta version, many Windows 98 users will jump at a similarly priced upgrade.
The LAN goes online
I installed Windows 98 Service Release Beta 2 onto two computers on my home office network. But all four Win 98 systems on the local area network benefit from Internet Connection Sharing, the update's most useful new capability. After a quick installation, the new feature shares a default Dial-Up Networking connection with everyone else on the LAN, acting as a proxy server and firewall. Taking advantage of the share from another Windows 95 or 98 system is easy -- just run the Internet Connection Wizard and choose to connect through the LAN.
The new feature is perfectly timed to coincide with the boom in home networking, and could spell trouble for third-party connection-sharing product developers. If you're a conscientious Windows upgrader, however, Internet connection sharing may be the only compelling reason to update to Second Edition. Many of the remaining major additions -- including the Dial-Up Networking 1.3 update, DirectX 6.1, Internet Explorer 5, and some noncritical security and year 2000 fixes -- are already available online. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, Internet Connection Sharing will not be available as a download.
Other features new in Windows 98 Second Edition that won't be available online include Dial-Up Networking support for ATM networks, support for Universal Serial Bus modems, device bay peripherals, and a new version of WebTV that fixes interface bugs and supports more TV tuner cards.
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