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Windows 98 set for June debut


It's official -- Windows 98 will officially hit the streets on June 25th.

But some industry observers believe the U.S. Department of Justice may rain on Microsoft's parade.

Ken Wasch, the president of the Software Publishers Association, wrote recently in a letter to the Justice Department that Microsoft is still being anti-competitive in its practices -- even with its planned Windows 98 operating system.

Computer makers can't customize the Windows operating desktop or any of the Internet content it offers, Wasch said, which limits their choices.

Windows 98 also has a folder on its desktop with icons for a number of online services, including America Online, AT&T, Prodigy Internet and others that have agreed to pay for placement there, Wasch said, another move to force choices on customers.

It's likely that the Justice Department will take some sort of action -- Microsoft officials have been meeting recently with government lawyers to discuss the case, and the Wall Street Journal has recently reported that action is likely before the end of May.

In anticipation of government action, I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft make a version of its new Windows 98 operating system available without its Web browser -- which is exactly what the company did to settle some of the government's recent antitrust claims over Windows 95.

PRICE SET. Microsoft set the prices for its next generation operating system on Tuesday.

Windows 98 will have a list retail price of $109, with retailers discounting it down to between $90 to $100. An online retailer has already been taking orders $95 a copy for the upgrade.

The complete operating system will be shipped to computer makers by the middle of May in order to have it available on new PCs by the official release date.

Windows 95 was a radical move away from the Windows 3.1 and 3.11 operating systems that preceded it. The look and feel of Windows 95 and Windows 98 is about the same and the question that will be answered in June is this: Will consumers pay that much money for what for what some see as just a minor operating system update?

Time will tell, but after running the beta of Windows 98, I can say the more I use it the more I like it.

More more information on Windows 98, visit Microsoft's Web site at www.microsoft.com.

WSJ SOARING. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that more than 200,000 people have subscribed to its online Interactive Edition.

The WSJ's online edition went online as a subscriber-only site nearly two years ago. The move was fairly radical at the time, as other online newspapers -- most notably USA Today -- had tried and failed to make of go of it with subscriber-only online editions.

The online Journal has more than 200 advertisers, with more than a third of its subscribers visiting daily.

For more information, visit the Wall Street Journal's Interactive Edition at www.wsj.com.

MAC MANIA. Buoyed with its second profitable quarter after two solid years of heavy losses, Apple Computers has attracted the attention again of both the industry and investors.

The company's stock price has doubled, and company co-founder and interim CEO Steve Jobs is reported torn between spending more time with other projects and his family, and continuing his role at bringing Apple "back."

Jobs has been serving as interim chief since the company's board fired Gil Amelio last July.

But will Apple's fortunes last?

The company's profits are more a product of Apple's extreme cost-cutting measures, according to industry analysts.

Sales on Apple's top-end G3 machines have helped, but the company has also cut jobs, product lines and research expenses.

While the company's sales were up from last year, its profits were hurt by dropping prices.

The company's profitability in the next year will depend on more people buying Apple computers, analysts say, including the need for a low-end version of its current Macintosh system.

Read the latest on Apple at their Web site, www.apple.com.

LIBRARIES ONLINE. Libraries are becoming more popular as a place where people access the Internet, researchers said this week.

The number of libraries offering public Internet access has more than doubled, to 60.4 percent today, up from 27.8 percent in 1996, according to the 1997 Public Library Data Service Report.

The report found that going online from a library is the fourth most popular place to surf the Internet, following home, work and school in popularity.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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