Apple and Microsoft offer modest OS Upgrades
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Canadian Computer Wholesaler, July 1999
One of the founding myths on the personal computing
separate visits by Apple?s Steve Jobs and Microsoft?s Bill Gates to the
now-legendary Xerox Parc research centre. There, the story goes, each
the future in the guise of the Xerox Star?a computer that pioneered the
use mice, menus, and icons?the graphical user interface.
Xerox failed to sell very many of its slow and
expensive Stars, but
within a few years. Apple and Microsoft went on to popularize its ideas
with the Macintosh and Windows.
Apple?s product had a bit of a head-start on
Microsoft, and initially,
a far superior implementation of a graphical user interface. But
is nothing if not persistent, and Windows evolved to the point that
Mac OS versions have been more likely to copy Windows features than the
other way around. The two products have come increasingly in synch,
the two companies almost seeming to work towards the same timetables
Both companies are gearing up for major operating
system releases late
in 1999 or early next year with Apple?s OS X and Microsoft Windows 2000
respectively. But in the meantime, each has released a lower-key
system revision this past spring.
Apple?s OS 8.6 was first off the mark, with a May
release, while Microsoft?s
Windows 95 Second Edition has, as I write, gone to manufacturing, with
actual public release any time soon.
OS 8.6 is an upgrade to Apple?s popular OS 8.5 release
of last Fall.
In fact, as of this writing, it isn?t available as a full product?the
web site still advertises the previous version, suggesting customers
OS 8.5 move up to the OS 8.6 by either downloading the upgrade or
it on CD (about $CDN30)?users of previous operating system version have
to buy 8.5 and then upgrade to 8.6. New Apple hardware should be coming
with the newest version pre-installed by the time you read this.
The new version builds on the previous one,
integrating more search
sites into the Sherlock find feature, for example. Apple now makes it
to use it search popular commerce sites like Amazon,com, Barnes and
and Music Boulevard. Game Sprocket technology, also introduced in OS
has been extended, making it easier for game hardware and software
to create products for the Mac.
Powerbook users will like the improved power
management, and the ability
to access the Internet via Nokia and Ericsson IRDA-capable mobile
There?s new support for DVD-RAM, and improved support for USB and
hardware. Mac Java support is boosted, with the new version running up
to five times faster. AppleScript and ColorSynch have also been
Windows 98 Second Edition (SE)is, as the name
suggests, a new and improved
version of last year?s Windows 98 (You?d think they might have named it
Windows 99). It integrates the various bug fixes and new version of
system add-ins that have been made available over the past year via the
Windows Update feature?and will be worthwhile for users simply for
all the fixes at one time.
Existing Windows 98 users will be able to download it
as a service pack?adding
Internet Explorer 5, and the latest versions of Microsoft?s Media
and Direct X 6.1 all in one (big) download.
A few new features are also being added into Second
Edition, but these
will not be made part of the free service pack?existing Win98 users
need to order an upgrade CD from Microsoft?again about $CDN 30 (showing
how Microsoft and Apple continue to run in synch). Unlike Apple,
users upgrading from versions earlier than Win98 will be able to get a
full upgrade version of SE?for the same price as the previous Win98
OEM versions will be available, allowing hardware manufacturers to ship
systems with SE pre-installed.
The most obvious new feature is Internet Connection
Sharing. This feature
is of use only to users with small networks at home or at work, wanting
to share a single Internet connection between multiple computers. This
could be a traditional dial-up connection, or a faster cable or ADSL
either case, the outside world only sees a single computer connected,
any machine on the network can make use of the Internet connection.
This has been available previously with third-party
proxy server or
gateway products such as WinGate or webEtc.
Other features include tightened security for Virtual
and improvements to Dial Up Networking. Support for high-speed ATM
(no, not the bank machines!) is improved. Hardware support is added for
Device Bay, allowing easier swapping of drives, and for Wake-on-LAN,
both features require support from the computer?s BIOS.
Neither OS 8.6 nor Windows 98 Second Edition are
for most end-users. While the bug-fixes in each are worthwhile in
neither product will generate Midnight-madness lineups outside
Both show the determination of their makers to keep
systems up to date; your customers will be demanding that you include
newest versions with your product lines.