The official countdown has begun as the PC universe anxiously awaits the delivery of Windows (R) '95. This highly touted and mega-hyped operating system will be available to you on August 24th, according to Brad Silverberg, Personal Systems Division Senior VP of Microsoft.
On July 14th, Microsoft released Windows 95 to manufacturing companies enabling production of 1 million copies each week. Marketing efforts are kicking into full gear also as Microsoft plans to spend $100 million dollars on its "Coming Soon..." campaign to promote sales of its largest effort since Windows 3.0 first appeared on the scene in 1990.
Lurking in the background, however, is the Justice Department with a trump card which they are holding close to the vest. Anne Bingaman, Assistant U.S. Attorney and long-time Microsoft anti- trust watchdog, recently put Microsoft on notice that the Justice department is pondering a cause of action that could further delay the release of Windows 95.
At the core of this battle of mighty wills is the online service that is packaged with Windows 95, Microsoft Network (MSN). The Justice department is concerned that Microsoft is using its marketing position in the operating system business to take an unfair advantage in the online services arena.
Fueling the Justice fires are, of course, the current online service providers: Prodigy, CompuServe, America Online and many smaller services. Their fears can be understood in basic math terms. It is estimated the Microsoft will sell approximately 25 million copies of Windows 95 during the first quarter of its release. 1996 sales are projected at 62 million copies and 1997 sales at 84 million copies.
America Online has only recently topped 3 million subscribers making it the global leader in online services. It's no wonder that present providers are wary, to say the least, knowing that 24 million users will be soon be prompted to automatically sign up with the Microsoft Network after they install Windows 95!
If America Online is panicked, you'd never know it. They have taken a pro-active, positive stance and continue to announce new product lines, features and services. In June, PC Financial Network (PCFN) linked up with America Online to offer members access to America's largest online discount broker. Members can now place trades at a discount, check stock quotes, research stocks, discuss investments and access their brokerage account information at any time from the comfort of their own PC.
America Online's World Wide Web Internet browser is top-notch and continues to improve. Soon subscribers will be able to build their own Web sites and home pages with NaviPress and NaviServer publishing systems. My Home Page will allow AOL members to create their own personal home page with text, photos and graphics that can be accessed by friends and associates both inside and outside the AOL community.
America Online will provide members with the publishing software free of charge and will also digitize pictures for uploading into their home pages and web sites. Just like screen names, an AOL account could have up to five home pages, or "My Places", per account.
In response to recent concerns about adult content on the Internet, AOL announced plans to expand current parental controls "empowering parents to make choices on the type of information their family accesses on AOL and the Internet". In September, parents will be able to customize online content and block any areas deemed inappropriate for their own children.
I'm sure Steve Case, President and CEO of America Online, is confident he has enough
experience and lead in the online business to maintain a strong market share of the online users.
Bill Gates supports a free market economy and believes the consumer is capable choosing and
driving the market without government interference. I'm not sure Anne Bingaman agrees, but it
will be interesting to watch it all unfold.
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