Windows 98 is on its way -- maybe


Barring legal action from the U.S. Department of Justice, Microsoft Corp. will be releasing Windows 98 by the end of March.

The third official "beta" version of the software was released to testers and developers before Christmas

A "beta" version is a copy of a software program that's still being development. "Betas" offer reviewers and developers an opportunity to try new software -- and in the case of PC Week, review it.

According to PC Week, Windows 98 is a promising upgrade for the aging Windows 95 operating system.

Windows 98's desktop will incorporate Internet Explorer 4.0. The desktop and every folder you open are actually an IE4.0 browser window.

This feature may sound ominous, especially if you're a fan of Netscape's Navigator and Communicator Web browser software packages.

However, Netscape's Web browsers can be installed normally, and can even be tagged as the default browser running under Windows 98. In other words, you won't be forced into using Internet Explorer 4.0.

In PC Week's tests, Windows 98 performed well.

Besides some performance improvements, Microsoft will be adding tools to help users keep their operating system tuned up.

For example, One new tool will identify shortcuts that exist but no longer point to actual programs. Another will help Windows users upgrade their hard drive formats to the FAT32 system, which allows for more efficient use of disk space.

Yet another tool that's been available from Microsoft as an unsupported addition for Windows 95 will be built into Win98.

TweakUI, which allows users greater control over the Windows interface, can be found at Microsoft's Web site for Windows 95 systems, and promises to be even better for Windows 98.

GETTIN' HUNGRY? The nation's largest online service has inked a deal that will let users order take-out food while online.

America Online announced last week it has signed a $20 million deal with Cybermeals, an online takeout restaurant service.

Cybermeals doesn't cook and deliver takeout; instead, the company matches user's requests for food with restaurants in their area that feature home delivery.

Once an order is placed with Cybermeals, they in turn place the order with the restaurant.

Cybermeals plans to have about 25,000 restaurants in its network in time for the April roll-out of the new service on AOL.

HOTMAIL IS HOT. Hotmail Corp., the free Web-based e-mail service, was purchased last week by Microsoft Corp. for an undisclosed amount.

Hotmail will be eventually become part of the Microsoft Network online service -- though it will still offer free e-mail to all Internet users, the company said.

Microsoft has been making deals with or buying outright companies that offer services to computer users throughout 1997.

Hotmail's popularity speaks for itself: The company's 9.5 million users make it the second-largest provider of online services, second only to America Online.

APPLE PRANKSTERS. Apple Computers Interim CEO Steve Jobs and Apple board member Larry Ellison evidently think alike -- and now there's proof to that effect.

Both men were apparently so annoyed by a computer consultant's constant lobbying for the job as Apple CEO they sent him prank e-mail messages saying the spot was his.

The consultant didn't get the joke, and replied to e-mail messages, stating he could start Jan. 5.

An Apple spokesman said Jobs had replied "in jest" to the consultant's messages due to the sheer number of e-mails he had sent to Apple board members.

The consultant didn't appreciate the joke; he alerted the media to Jobs and Ellison's prank.

In an interview, the consultant said he respected the two men, but felt like they were "trying to play some type of fraternity joke."

PC PRICE WAR? Sales of new PCs continued strong in 1997, and the new year may see that trend continue.

Gateway 2000 unveiled last week it's G5 PC package: An Intel 233MHz Pentium MMX desktop system equipped with 16 MB of RAM, 1.6GB hard drive, 12-speed CD ROM drive, 56k modem and 15-inch monitor -- all for $1,499.

The total package is an acknowledgment to the fact that most PCs sold last year cost less than $1,500.

Other computer makers will likely follow suit, since Intel has dropped the price of some of its Pentium II processors by 33 percent -- and more price cuts are expected late this month from the chip company.

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