Microsoft's new Windows 98 to arrive sans hoopla of 95

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Microsoft Corp. is preparing to roll out Windows 98 in June, but it won't seek--or get--the level of hoopla the launch of Windows 95 achieved three years ago.

While ad plans and budgets are still being developed, one executive close to Microsoft said it may focus on print and skip TV. The product also is sure to get heavy Web promotion. Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., will handle the general print effort. Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, will handle online and possibly print ads aimed at a technical audience.


This smaller-scale effort is in contrast to the Windows 95 introduction, which received an estimated $100 million in U.S. advertising--much of that as the focal point of Microsoft's corporate TV campaign--in the year following its August 1995 launch. Windows 95 also got a massive dose of global promotion and publicity.

Windows 98 is a smaller event, partly by design. In contrast to the one-size-fits-all Windows 95, Microsoft is aiming Windows 98 primarily at the home, while positioning the more robust Windows NT for the business market.

Windows 98 is important to Microsoft, but it also is preparing a heavy launch for Windows NT 5.0, expected late this year.


"You could still say that Windows 98 has the features and the design points to make it a great consumer [operating system] as well as a great business desktop," said Rob Bennett, group product manager for Windows 98, Windows NT Workstation and Internet Explorer. "But at the same time, NT over the long term is certainly the premier choice for business."

Windows 98 also will get less marketing support simply because it's more of an incremental change than the all-new Windows 95.

Windows 98 will arrive as Intel Corp. introduces a new low-cost chip dubbed Celeron, as well as lower prices on high-end chips. That also should offer some sizzle to boost the PC market.

But Microsoft's bigger marketing challenge will be in selling upgrades to Windows 95 users. Mr. Bennett acknowledged Microsoft will have to overcome a popular perception that Windows 98 is little more than Windows 95 with an integrated Internet Explorer 4.0 browser.

"When people actually see the product and play with it, that perception goes away," he said.


The product has some new features, including "WebTV for Windows" that allows users of PCs with a TV tuner to watch cable TV in a window. That also allows a variation on interactive TV.

This year, the Public Broadcasting Service plans a TV/Web content broadcast for some shows, allowing Windows 98 users to view a show and related Web content by using a cable connection for TV and a regular phone line for the Web.

Few PCs today have a $50-range TV tuner card, but Mr. Bennett expects the feature to be added to upcoming models.

Mr. Bennett cited two other selling points for Windows 98: It's faster than Windows 95, and "it just crashes less."

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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