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Thursday, June 25, 1998 Published at 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK

Windows 98 - at a store near you

Windows 98 is already on sale in Australia

Microsoft's latest offering is on sale across the world. The BBC's Internet correspondent, Chris Nuttall, reports.

A number of computer stores across the USA opened specially for the launch of the latest release of the Microsoft operating system.

Branches of the CompUSA chain stayed open for 98 minutes, selling a $98-dollar computer and a 98-cent CD-ROM drive.

[ image:  ]
But nobody is expecting the buying frenzy experienced when Windows 95 went on sale three years ago.

Then, nearly 20 million copies were sold in its first four months of release. The International Data Corporation estimates that Microsoft will sell only around 13 million copies of Windows 98 over the next six months.

The reason - Windows 98 represents a slick upgrade of Windows 95, whereas the latter product represented a revolutionary step forward from its predecessor Windows 3.1.

And Microsoft has not given it the same huge marketing push, partly because Windows 98 has been attracting the unwanted attention of the American Justice Department and the attorneys-general of 20 states, who see the company as trying to extend its near monopoly over computer desktops to the Internet.

Party on, Gates

[ image:  ]
The UK launch party is taking the theme of The Generation Game television show to emphasise that this is the next generation of Windows rather than a quantum leap forward.

In the United States, Microsoft is throwing a two-hour party in the evening with demonstrations, free T-shirts, and a message from the chairman, Bill Gates, all beamed live by satellite to 88 cities.

Alternative launch parties are planned as well by Microsoft's opponents. Users of a rival operating system, Linux, are planning a Launch Windows 98 event which will give those attending a chance to fire a rocket equipped with four fins made from cutting two Windows 98 CDs in half.

The organisers say that the rocket will return to Earth with the aid of a parachute, and therefore, unlike the real Windows 98, will not crash.

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