According to a report in InfoWorld, Microsoft is preparing to release the second beta release of its new multimedia graphics tool, code-named "Chrome," to private beta testers. Chrome--once thought to be part of Internet Explorer 5.0--is actually a "data visualization tool" that can be added on to Windows 98 or Windows NT 5.0. It allows Web developers to add multimedia features to HTML using Microsoft's DirectX technology, which was previously only available to Windows games developers. Microsoft says that the merging of HTML and DirectX will lead to more interactive capabilities for users and an easier programming model for developers. With these capabilities, however, comes a heavy price: Chrome requires some serious PC hardware.

"The initial PCs that will run the Chrome feature of Windows 98 are going to be 350 MHz Pentium boxes," said Brad Chase, VP of Windows Marketing and Developer Relations at Microsoft. "You're not going to be able to have this on a standard Pentium today."

More specifically, Chrome requires a 350+ MHz or Pentium II processor with a 100-MHz bus, 4+ MB of video memory, and 64+ MB of RAM. Chrome is expected to be complete by the end of the year