It is August 1998. No, I know it isn't, just bear with me, we're being hypothetical. August 1998 and Microsoft's Department of Justice (DoJ) injunction is still in place. It wants to release Windows 98 but its major selling point is that it is tied in with Internet Explorer, and the thrust of the DoJ injunction is that Windows is tied in too far with Internet Explorer. So what happens to Microsoft's pilot offering when IE has to be defenestrated or it's the old duffings up for Bill?
There is the launch of something, correctly called Windows 98 - even if it only bears a passing resemblance to that which is currently in beta.
If the injunction holds, you can only guess at how the launch will go.
Hello and welcome to the formal launch of Windows 98, which includes much tighter integration with, er, the CD-Rom drive. Oh yes. And multimedia and the sound card, definitely, you've got to have a CD-Rom drive. There is no point in developing an operating system that doesn't integrate totally, completely, with the CD-Rom drive. That's right. You know how it is when you stick a CD into the drive and it doesn't work, or you find a movie of Bill getting pie'd on disk - on disk mind, not from that place that starts with 'I' - and it doesn't play properly? What? Oh, you don't? Well, this time around with Windows 98, it'll do the same again.
Deeply cynical readers might note that you could say the same about integrating with the internet now. Windows 95 does it, and come to think of it Windows 3.x didn't do all that bad a job, so what is all this Windows 98 stuff about anyway? But we've already covered unnecessary upgrades in these pages before. Do keep up.
Why else will Microsoft say a non-IE Windows 98 is better than Windows 95? Because it's more tightly integrated with, ahem, because we're giving a free pack of Maryland cookies away with every copy, that's why. And because you can send off for a free X-Files t-shirt if you like, and because of all sort of reasons that definitely don't begin with the initials IE, and yes, of course, we had a reason for marketing those letters to death earlier this year, but, well, the reason has changed. We are deeply proud of our new standalone system, just like we were last time. It might not happen.
Even as I write, Microsoft has scored a minor victory in an antitrust related suit over its non-disclosure policies, and these little wins could start adding up to something much more substantial. No doubt young Gatesy will be hoping for just such a result. But until things are settled, the company would be well advised to play down the importance of Windows 98 in its strategy, or maybe even (hesitates, looks around) delay the launch a bit until it knows 'stop bundling this' style judgements are out of the question.
Imagine, a software company delaying a product release. Surely not?
Guy Clapperton is a freelance IT journalist.
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