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NT 5.0: More to Come

-- by John D. Ruley

Microsoft has already announced a number of Cairo features that will appeal more to desktop users than to administrators. In fact, some of these user-oriented features could catapult NT Workstation to the forefront of business-desktop operating systems and even to de-facto standard status.

The most visible new feature will be an Internet Explorer 4.0-based user interface, which NT 5.0 (both Workstation and Server) will share with the direct successor to Windows 95, code-named "Memphis." The interface will blur the distinction between Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, with local and Internet/intranet resources appearing on the desktop. Navigation on the desktop will be more Web-like.

Both Cairo and Memphis will also share a common Windows Driver Model (WDM), so a similar set of device drivers will work with either.

NT on a Notebook-Finally!

Cairo will also bring to NT support for Plug and Play and power management, which makes NT on notebooks a more tenable proposition. Combining PnP with WDM should also address other problematic areas, such as NT's weak scanner support with Win95-style bidirectional parallel ports.

Because these new features will be built on the existing Windows NT foundation, NT 5.0 should be accepted by business users.

Both versions of Cairo will provide a limited degree of 64-bit very large memory (VLM) support, aimed at special applications such as Web-search databases. VLM will initially be supported only on Digital's 64-bit Alpha AXP 21xxx processor family, but eventually will extend to Intel's next-generation "Merced" processor when it appears.

In light of the way Win95 upgrades have dribbled out via the Internet, it will be interesting to see if NT 5.0 will appear as a single, well-integrated package like past versions of NT, or if it, too, will find its way onto desktops and into backrooms in bits and pieces.

Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.

Windows Magazine, March 1997, page 200.

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