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-- by Joseph C. Panettieri
Call it the NT Edict: Even if you never want to switch from Windows 95 (and its future iterations) to Windows NT, you will. That's because in the not-so-distant future, virtually all versions of Windows will be based on NT's kernel. In fact, when Memphis finally arrives (see related story), it may be the last major Windows release that's not NT kernel-based.
One code base
By standardizing on the NT kernel-and phasing out Win95's core code-Microsoft hopes to develop future OSes from a single code base. This approach could speed product development, improve system stability and enhance interoperability among different Windows flavors. Also, NT's kernel is portable; Win95's foundation, by contrast, is essentially hardwired to Intel's instruction set.
Consumer versions of Windows will likely run on NT's kernel within about two years, or as soon as NT gains Plug-and-Play features. (As for Windows CE, Microsoft says it is not based on the NT kernel.)
The truth is that most users no longer need Win95's extensive backward compatibility. In fact, at recent trade shows Microsoft officials have hinted about NT's kernel spanning consumer PCs, notebooks, corporate PCs, network computers and the increasingly lucrative server market. As one insider put it, "At some point, we've got to break with the past. Maintaining two code bases just isn't practical."