Microsoft plots the future of the Windows platform

During today's Windows platform briefing, Microsoft vice president Paul Maritz announced that Memphis would be known as Windows 98 when it ships late this year or early next year. Windows 98 will be positioned primarily at corporations that require compatibility with legacy application while the next release of Windows NT, version 5.0, will be aimed at advanced 32-bit only users.

Maritz also announced a new edition of Windows NT that is aimed at small businesses, code-named "Sam."

"We expect to see customers deploying a mix of Windows-based systems designed for their specific user needs and system requirements," Maritz told conference attendees at the Washington State Convention Center.

In addition to future versions of Windows, Office was discussed as well. Jon DeVaan, vice president of the desktop applications division, outlined the following features of the next version of Microsoft Office:

  • self repair: application files can repair themselves if a critical file is deleted.
  • installation on demand: even beginning users will be able to install application upgrades from a central server.
  • roaming user support: mobile users can take their desktop settings with them, regardless of whether they are connected to the LAN or not.
  • run-from-server: application updates can occur at the server only, but affect all machines on the network.
Scientists from Microsoft's natural language research group demonstrated next-generation natural language processing that will enable future Office applications to understand the meaning and context of human language.

A major goal of the next version of Microsoft Office is to lower the total cost of ownership for the suite.

"Feedback from our customers has indicated that managing TCO is becoming even more important and has to be a key priority for us moving forward," said DeVaan. "We'll achieve our goal of cutting total ownership costs of Office in half by making Office the premier example of how an application can take advantage of the Zero Administration initiative for Windows."

Also revealed at the conference: More than 100 million units of Microsoft 32-bit Windows operating systems are currently in use.

"The secret of the PC phenomenon has been that Windows has enabled unprecedented software and hardware innovation on the part of the entire PC industry," Maritz said. "This process of reinvention will enable Windows to be the common link for an increasing number and variety of computing devices ranging from mainframe class systems, small-business servers, terminals and networked PCs to entertainment and consumer electronic devices.

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