Microsoft Windows Product Group product manager Phil Holden says that his company is "very, very close" to finalizing the code for Windows 98 Release Candidate 0, which will soon be shipped to 30,000 beta testers. Microsoft developers just need to finish some work on power management and the Windows Drive Manager before the RC goes out the door, he said.

Once RC-0 ships, Microsoft will enter a repeating phase of testing, bug reports, and new release candidates until the product is judged solid enough for a final release candidate. The final release candidate is tested only for "show stoppers"--code that totally breaks the product or makes it dangerous to install for some reason.

While most people expect an April or May release of Windows 98, Microsoft is still stung by constant delays and refuses to give a firm date. They do, however, admit that the product will be available in the second quarter, which ends June 30.

Holden says that few, if any, planned capabilities are likely to be cancelled at this point. Windows 98 will include the latest version of Internet Explorer 4.x, a FAT32 file system converter, multi-monitor support, DVD and USB support, and more, he said. The Zero Administration Windows (ZAW) support in Windows 98, however, will be limited.

"We put in all the policies from the Windows 95 \[Zero Administration Kit\]. But other Zero Administration stuff won't be added until the same time as it's added to NT 5.0," Holden said.

While you're waiting for the release of Windows 98, you can purchase the Beta 3 release direct from Microsoft for about $30. Check out the Windows 98 home page for details