Windows 95: Win Some, Lose Some

I have seen the future, and it sucks bytes. That in and of itself shouldn't be a bad sign. A full installation of the much-hyped, much-delayed, almost-finally-here debut of Windows 95 -- Microsoft's "revolutionary" follow-up to Windows 3.1 -- takes up a lot of hard-drive room, or megabytes (80 for a full install). But if Windows 95 lived up to its pre-release hype, it would be worth the lost cyber space. That is because Microsoft did the one thing it had to do to ensure the PC sheep will flock to its product: It made Win95 less cumbersome and illogical than Windows 3.1. Woo-wee. Strike up the bandwidth. Evaluating Win95 on its own merits turns up few noteworthy additions. It no longer has the "Program Manager," which threw all your programs into one window and didn't allow any sort of logical hierarchical arrangements. That's a plus. Users now begin with a desktop system that is quite similar to the Mac's, with a "my computer" icon, a trash can ("recycle"), and an icon that represents the place you go for network configuring. This is what an operating system should be. It only took Microsoft a decade to integrate these features the PC's clumsy technology. The other trumpeted changes do make the overall operating of Win95 easier, but they too deserve the "'bout time" award. (Remember, this program has been delayed almost two years so you could get these revolutionary features.) Most users will begin at the "start" button on the lower left corner of the screen, which will offer a hierarchical pop-up menu. Users can then drag to their favorite program, recently opened programs, or to the enhanced finder. Also touted: plug-and-play ease for peripherals like modems and printers, ability to minimize or close a window with one mouse click, and the ability to create folder or document names longer than eight characters. These changes enhance Win95, but not enough to justify the hype. Still, I'm enough of a realist to know that its success is a fait accompli. But just to double-check my theory, I called up Bob Cohen, a Dallas-area licensed troubleshooters for Windows 95. "Windows 95 is great," says Cohen, who has been beta-testing the program for years. "There will be some initial problems, of course, and the media will play these up, but sales will still be strong. It has a much easier user-interface, much greater speed, and it's more stable." Even the Microsoft Network gets high marks from Cohen, although he sees room for improvement. "There's a lot of functionality, top-notch graphics and presentation, and the e-mail system is nicely integrated -- you can send a voice message easily, for example. But the ability to get around in the forums needs work." Not that this minor point should decrease demand. "From what I understand, retailers are planning midnight openings on August 24 to meet demand," Cohen says. "Some are hiring off-duty police officers to keep traffic flowing smoothly. The sellers say the only thing they fear is not having enough security people to fend off the shoplifters."

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