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Windows 98 due early next year

Microsoft announced last week that Windows 98, the long-anticipated successor to its Windows 95 operating system, will be available in the first quarter of next year. The upgrade won't be the technological leap that marked the introduction of Windows 95 two years ago, but Microsoft officials promise to deliver software that will blend the Internet, radio, television and other media into personal computers, while being more reliable and far simpler to operate. Microsoft said it was taking to heart long-standing complaints by computer users that software is too hard to use, unreliable and unwieldy. "Frankly, we haven't done as good a job as we should at keeping our programs simple," said Jon DeVaan, vice-president of Microsoft's desktop applications division. Windows 98 will adopt features from Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser, allowing users to access programs and information on their hard disks in much the same way as they do on the World Wide Web. The beta version of Windows 98 was released last month to a select group of software developers and testers. An updated version will go out soon and test results will determine the final product's shipping date. In late September, Microsoft will send out the beta of the next version of Windows NT, its operating system for higher-powered computers and corporate networks, with the final version due some time next year.

AOL won't sell phone numbers

Following an outcry last week from subscribers and advocates of privacy, America Online abruptly cancelled its plan to sell subscribers' telephone numbers to its business partners for telemarketing purposes. AOL claimed it never intended to make the phone numbers of its more than 8 million subscribers world-wide "available for rental to telemarketers". It told subscribers, "The only calls we intended for you to receive would have been from AOL and a limited number of quality-controlled AOL partners," the company stated. "However, upon further reflection, we today decided to change our plans. We will not provide lists of our members' telephone numbers even to our partners. The only calls you might receive will be from us." But AOL will continue to sell subscribers' e-mail addresses to telemarketers.

UK behind Germany in Net use

British businesses are slightly behind Germany but well ahead of France in adopting the Internet, according to research by Gallup. The survey of more than 600 European businesses carried out on behalf of IBM and the Wall Street Journal Europe found that only slightly more than half of all French companies, compared with three-quarters of German companies, use the Internet. Britain lags close behind Germany. The survey found that despite their position as a firm second to Germany, British businesses believe they are better than average in adopting the Internet, while the French realise that they are behind. Some 48 per cent of German businesspeople have a PC with Internet connectivity in their homes, compared with 36 per cent in the UK and 28 per cent in France.

Survey dispels `lonely Nerd' image

A new survey released last week dispels the myth that Internet users are "lonely nerds"; rather, they tend to be active, affluent adults who use the Internet for work and leisure. The survey, conducted by Continental Research for Yahoo! UK, found that 59 per cent of the service's users are aged 25 to 44, 83 per cent are in households comprising two or more people, and 54 per cent have families. The average income for Yahoo! users in households of more than two people is pounds 44,000 a year, more than three times the national average. The survey of 1,258 respondents found that 85 per cent use the Internet in the office and at home, 97 per cent communicate by e-mail, 73 per cent use the Net daily, and 59 per cent spend at least six hours a week online. Fifty-six per cent of respondents said that as a result of spending time on the Internet they watch less television; 52 per cent said they send fewer letters and memos; 30 per cent spend less time reading newspapers, 28 per cent talk less on the telephone, 21 per cent spend less time reading magazines, and 15 per cent reported working fewer hoursn