due out soon
By Dan Gillmor
San Jose Mercury News
Web-posted August 4, 1996
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The next version of Microsoft Corp.'s top-line personal computer operating system, Windows NT 4.0, will be sent to manufacturing sites this week, sooner than many observers had expected.
The new version, which Microsoft said should be in stores by early September, will have the same superficial look and feel of Windows 95, the top-selling operating system since its release last year. But in key respects it's much more powerful under the covers.
A key advantage: It's much more robust than Windows 95, by many accounts. That is, it crashes much less often and handles chores such as multitasking (running more than one program at a time) more smoothly.
But for best performance NT requires a more powerful computer than does Windows 95 or IBM's OS/2 Warp, another rival in the operating systems market. The next version of OS/2, which has lagged badly in the race, is due out sometime this year and is expected to require an equally powerful machine - a minimum of 16 megabytes of random-access memory, for example, and a powerful processor (at least a fast 486 or Pentium) plus plenty of space on the hard disk.
NT also is unlikely to be an appropriate operating system for many if not most home users, in part because of its high system requirements, an inability to run some programs written for the DOS and Windows 3.1 operating systems and the lack of "Plug and Play" software that lets users more easily configure new hardware. In addition, it doesn't have the advanced power-management features favored by users of laptop and notebook computers, who want to squeeze the most time from batteries.
But it replaces the user "interface" - the screen look and feel - of the current version of NT, 3.51, with the Windows 95 view. It has more advanced file handling and many other features favored by higher-end users. And its stability is a major attraction to power users, especially programmers.
Many companies and large organizations have held off on buying Windows 95, waiting to see NT 4.0 before deciding when and if to upgrade from DOS and Windows 3.1, said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at Dataquest, a San Jose market-research company.
More than 100,000 computer users have put several pre-release, or beta, versions of NT 4.0 through the paces in recent months, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. She declined comment on how much the final version would cost. At its current price of about $280, NT is about three times as expensive as Windows 95.
The announcement that NT 4.0 is finished comes as Microsoft prepares to play host to journalists and financial analysts this week near its Redmond, Wash., headquarters for a series of briefings and public relations events.