Microsoft will release a first public beta test version of Memphis on Monday, amid reports that it may offer little for most users. With the latest version of Windows 95 (OSR2) already providing bug fixes and support for USB, FAT 32, large hard drives and CardBus, Memphis could be seen as a redundant OS upgrade for many users.
The first Memphis beta will also offer the first glimpse of Microsoft's vision of the Active Desktop, running with an embedded version of Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0. This is where Microsoft expects a number of IE users to leap, as Memphis uses IE tools to navigate the operating system, as well as the Internet. Yet IE 4.0 will be available in its own right and if combined with the OSR2 version of Windows 95, it leaves little left for Memphis to claim as a unique selling point.
Mark Child, technical director of PC Magazine, agreed that Memphis's key feature is support for USB and added, "there are literally 30 or 40 USB peripheral vendors waiting for this release".
Another area which Microsoft has claimed that Memphis would do well when compared with Windows 95 is networking, but Child disputed the point, claiming a large number of corporates have not upgraded to Windows 95 because of a preponedrance of legacy machines. "Basically, if people haven't upgraded to Windows 95 yet, there seems little reason for them to upgrade to Windows 97 [the expected release name for Memphis]."
Memphis is expected to be released to OEMs early next year, but reports from the US suggest that copies of Memphis will be available to retail outlets before then, prompting sharp criticisms from the US channel. Microsoft UK was unavailable for comment but sources suggest that the UK would be likely to follow the US in any such release policy.