When Microsoft releases its Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2.0 at the end of August, it will be the key to widespread implementation of the much-touted Universal Serial Bus (USB) and break the 2Gb hard drive barrier. The Service Release will be installed on September systems from just about everybody, integrating features, fixes and patches that have only been available online so far, but also some enablers for powerful forthcoming technology.
Most significantly the release folds in USB support, a copy of Internet Explorer 3.0, Microsoft's Web browser and a new file system called FAT32, although the last isn't planned to be added to the retail version of Win95.
USB support will encourage vendors to add USB connectors to motherboards, in anticipation of the first USB peripherals shipping late this year. USB supports 12Mbps transfer rates on daisy-chained serial peripherals such as mice, joysticks, modems and scanners.
The key advantage of FAT32 is that it supports huge hard drives - up to 2 terabytes (2,000Gb), whereas today's drives only support 2Gb under Win95. FAT32 also makes many more clusters available so that small files don't hog unwarranted disk space. Experts caution that disk and other utilities will have to be rewritten to take advantage of the new capacity.
The release will also have a translation layer that connects Desktop Management Interface (DMI) information with the Windows registry so that Windows 95 will be able to send client status data to network managers. DMI is a standard that provides remote diagnostic capabilities to ease adding and managing networked PCs.
Apricot will ship USB-ready PCs in September and IBM in October, while Dell said it would have USB in October-December time frame.