The PC makers won't make you wait for Win95

The imminent release of Microsoft Windows 95 has PC
manufacturers hustling to preload it with Windows 3.x, so that buyers can choose which one
to install.


A few PC makers, including Dell Computer Corp., plan to list Win95 PCs on their General
Services Administration schedules by mid-September. Dell, Advanced Digital Systems Inc.
and other makers with flexible, build-to-order manufacturing processes have begun
accepting government orders for Win95 PCs.


Those who buy through the Nationwide Office Automation for Veterans Affairs contract
automatically will get a choice of Win95 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11 when they first
boot up their new PCs.


Several manufacturers, including Compaq Computer Corp., IBM Corp. and Digital Equipment
Corp., are giving coupons for free Win95 software to users who bought new PCs from them
within the last few months.


On or shortly after Win95's predicted release this Thursday, Compaq will begin shipping
its entire commercial ProLinea, DeskPro and Contura lines with Windows 95 and Windows 3.1
preloaded. Buyers install the OS of their choice. Everyone who purchased a Compaq PC after
June 24 will receive a coupon for a free upgrade to Win95.


Across its entire line of commercial PCs, IBM plans to offer two different
factory-installed configurations: either Windows 95 or IBM OS/2 Warp and Windows 3.1.
Initially at least, Win95 demand will be greatest from consumers, not government or
commercial users, IBM spokesman Michael Reiter predicted.


"The issue for [government] accounts is training, time to install and cost,"
Reiter said.


Digital Equipment plans to provide BIOS upgrades via its electronic bulletin board
system and to distribute Win95 supplementary kits to users who want to upgrade their
Digital HighNote and HighNote Ultra notebooks.


Plug and Play capability is one of Win95's main features, "so we are in the
process of rewriting all our system BIOSes to be Plug and Play," said Robert
Morrison, marketing communications manager for Everex Systems Inc. of Fremont, Calif.


Many hardware manufacturers have spent the past 12 months running extensive tests of
the new OS for BIOS compatibility. But before they can display the Windows 95 Plug and
Play logo, Microsoft must certify their boxes, and that could take some time.


Morrison said Everex planned to submit its hardware to Microsoft's testing laboratory,
but his company and probably others would begin shipping Win95 boxes before receiving
certification, "because Microsoft is backed up in the testing of the systems.
Microsoft offered the service, but I don't think they realized quite how many companies
were out there."


Some federal contracts will have to answer the question of whether Win95 is an upgrade
of Windows 3.11 or an entirely new operating system. As an upgrade, Win95 automatically
would be substituted for Windows 3.x on contracts such as Air Force Desktop IV, which
specified free automatic software upgrades for the life of the contract.


As a new OS, it might be seen as outside the scope of present contracts, industry
watchers said.


"We're waiting to see what the Air Force asks for on Desktop IV," said Pat
Gallagher, a federal sales executive with contractor Zenith Data Systems Corp.
"Windows 95 is a very different product from Windows 3. Our contract is for Windows
3, not Windows 95."


Those who buy ZDS machines from General Services Administration schedule or on the open
market will receive a coupon good for a copy of Windows 95, priced at $29.95 plus $5
shipping. That offer is open until Oct. 1, Gallagher said.


Some vendors have begun advising customers that base hardware requirements will
increase with Windows 95. "Obviously, we'll recommend that users increase their
memory," said Michael Wolfe of Advanced Digital Systems in Waltham, Mass. A minimum
configuration should have "not only a good video card but a minimum of 16M of
memory."


Brad Mack of BTG Inc., a Vienna, Va., reseller, said his company will offer Windows 95
on GSA schedule, but only as part of necessary system upgrades. "For example, if you
buy a memory or multimedia upgrade kit from us, Windows 95 will be included," Mack
said.


In response to the new OS release, some manufacturers are expanding their technical
support staffs and launching extensive Win95 migration services.


AT&T Global Information Solutions plans to offer enterprise migration services
based on its own extensive testing of Windows 95. "We've already done a large
internal migration," said AT&T GIS's Bob Farkas. "We'll have more than 2,000
users migrated by Aug. 24, and we have not seen any major problems with
applications."


But many users at government sites have custom applications that need to be tested.
"If it's an MS-DOS application, it should run," Farkas said. Customer-specific
applications with hooks in the DOS layer "may or may not run," he added.


Altogether, more than 280 PC manufacturers worldwide will preload Windows 95 on or soon
after Aug. 24. Besides those mentioned above, the list includes Acer Corp., Gateway 2000
Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Micron Electronics Inc., NEC Technologies Inc., Packard Bell
Electronics Inc., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. and Unisys Corp.


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