The next cool thing for PCs ... Windows 97

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If you are sick of the hype around Windows 95, if you are ready to hit the next person who tells you how it has changed their life, if you installed it and your computer crashed, take a deep breath - Windows 97 is just around the corner.

Brad Silverberg, who was in charge of the development of Windows 95 for the giant Microsoft corporation, yesterday told the Independent in an exclusive interview: "Within two years, we will have a complete new version of Windows." It would not be an upgrade on the new package, launched amid global ballyhoo in August. "It will be a whole new product."

But PC owners are already groaning at the effort of making their machines work with Microsoft's latest effort, which enables the computer to run other software.

After years of delay, Windows 95 was released with the biggest promotional campaign in the history of computing. After the launch, the company's telephone support lines were swamped, with 20,000 calls a day in the US and 3,000 a day in Britain. The surge of sales has slowed but there are still hundreds of calls every day. Mr Silverberg says the new version is necessary not because of any flaws in Windows 95 but "to take advantage of all the cool things that are coming" such as new telecommunications and "multimedia" products.

Mr Silverberg admits that Windows 3.1 (the predecessor to Windows 95) has not been the easiest product to use."Adding an extra piece of hardware to your machine and configuring it was not necessarily a pleasant experience," he says. "It could take a whole weekend to make it work."

But desperate users contemplating yet another tussle with their machine can feel encouraged by one statistic. In its 20-year history, Microsoft has never shipped a product on schedule. Windows 95 was originally meant to be launched in the second half of 1994. If we are lucky, Windows 97 might be delayed until the millennium.

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