Microsoft runs into PR buzz saw with Win98 glitches
By Margaret Kane , ZDNN and John G. Spooner, PC Week Online
July 8, 1998 9:45 am ET
Against the backdrop of lingering
confusion about the stability of the
Windows 98 upgrade, PC makers and
Microsoft Corp. are beefing up their
Complaints from users upgrading from Windows 95 to
Windows 98 range from blue screen errors to reports that the
operating system fails to recognize peripherals such as PC
Card modems and floppy drives.
Elsewhere, users have complained about versions of Outlook
Express and Internet Explorer shipping with Windows 98 that
are causing their systems to freeze.
Customer jitters have forced PC makers to scramble. Dell
Computer Corp. (Nasdaq:DELL), of Round Rock, Texas, for
example, has gone so far as to contact each customer who
recently purchased Dell desktops and notebooks, suggesting
he or she consult a page on the company's Web site before
Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE:CPQ) has listed possible
conflicts with Windows 98 on its Web site, while IBM
(NYSE:IBM) has also posted a number of patches and
Although Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) officials have downplayed
the problems, corporate customers and consumers continue to
cite problems installing and loading the operating system on
laptops, notebooks and desktop systems.
Beta testers who had not encountered problems with near-final
releases of the product report problems trying to install the final
"gold" version of the product.
For its part, Microsoft recently posted instructions on its own
site about how users can find drivers and other files necessary
to upgrade PCs to Windows 98.
The Hardware Compatibility List allows users to search by
hardware type or company name and tells what operating
systems the hardware is compatible with. It also provides links
to any drivers or help files that are needed for installation.
Although it shipped Windows 98 with 1,200 drivers, Microsoft
allowed that "not all third-party vendors have had a chance to
update legacy hardware drivers."
The continuing confusion surrounding Win98 convinced
Gateway Inc. (Nasdaq:GTW) not to support certain aspects of
the OS, according to sources.
For instance, the sources said, Gateway has turned off ACPI
(advanced configuration power interface) support in all of its
Solo notebook models that were designed with the power
The company did so in order to avoid customer problems with
ACPI, sources said.
Gateway officials in North Sioux City, S.D., said the company
has no plans to offer Win98 upgrade information or support via
its Web site.
"We are not making any specific recommendations to our
customers except for those that come from Microsoft," the
official said, adding that Gateway is selling an upgrade kit that
comes with new drivers for Gateway-specific hardware and
Just how widespread the problem is remains unclear. Last
week, when Dell -- along with Toshiba America Information
Systems Inc. -- advised customers with certain models not to
upgrade to Win98, company officials sought to minimize the
glitches and indicated they mainly affected the computer
maker's Latitude line of mobile systems.
Of 14 Dell Latitude notebooks, Dell recommends against
upgrades at this time for 10 of the models. But Dell's Web site
on Tuesday was chockablock with warnings about upgrading
other systems as well.
Dell recommends that users not attempt to upgrade 13 of the
27 desktop models listed on its Web site. The company
recommends users download driver upgrades before installing
Win98 on another four. In fact, only five of the desktop models
have received a clean bill of health from the company.
The upgrade path to Win98 appears less problematic at the
high end, where the company said only two of its 21 Optiplex
desktop models fail to run Windows 98.
"We've reviewed all of our systems and identified if they need
updated drivers," said Dell spokesman Bill Robbins. "We're
letting customers know whether they should try installation."
He added that the company experienced similar problems with
Windows 95, but did not post information about the upgrade on
its Web site.
However, at the time of the Windows 95 release, there were
relatively few problems reported by developers who failed to
get their applications to run smoothly with the new operating
system upgrade. It was even rarer to hear about OEMs not
being ready with the appropriate software drivers.
May the All-Mighty grant you the wisdom to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, SUN and Microsoft.