US Report: Microsoft muzzles PC makers?

PC vendors appear to be backing away from statements made late last week that some PC users should hold off on upgrading their PCs from Windows 95 to Windows 98.

OEMs, including Toshiba, Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, posted information on their Web sites telling users in certain cases not to upgrade their PCs and, in other cases, to wait for Windows 98-ready BIOS software and device drivers before upgrading.

Several major manufacturers have now changed their tune as a result of pressure from Microsoft, according to sources at the OEMs.

Toshiba early this week pulled the information it had posted regarding Windows 98 from its support Web site. A warning had told owners of several Toshiba notebooks not to upgrade to Windows 98 until an upgraded BIOS that supports ACPI (advanced configuration and power interface) was posted to the support site. Though the BIOS software is not yet available, Toshiba took down the information. A spokeswoman at the company said Toshiba is rewriting the information and will repost it at a later date.

Toshiba isn't alone. HP posted a warning to its Web site saying that a feature on Brio desktop models can cause "severe" problems under Windows 98. (HP officials claim, however, that most other HP PCs have not shown problems with the operating system.) HP said wording that addresses the problem on its Brio support Web site -- which reads, "Using the Selective Application Setup option of the HP Product Recovery CD-ROM under Windows 98 may seriously corrupt your system. Your system may not be able to restart successfully." -- will be changed today.

One of the most vocal PC vendors about Windows 98 upgrade issues so far has been Dell. The company, which last week mailed a letter to a large number of customers asking them to check its Web site before upgrading, has also toned it down somewhat. "I have a passion for letting users know what issues are in the PC space," said Carl Everett, senior vice president of Dell's Personal Systems Group, who as a former Intel executive was involved in the legendary PR debacle surrounding a math coprocessor bug in early Pentium chips. "We don't see [the information on our Web site] as a warning. We provide as much information as frequently as possible [to customers]. It's certainly considered an extension."

Still, OEMs continue to advise users to wait to download updated drivers or BIOS software before upgrading to Windows 98. Many of them, however, have yet to post the updated drivers and BIOS software.

In related news, Gateway announced it will walk users through the upgrade process with a CD-ROM that automatically installs the appropriate drivers and other software before they upgrade to Windows 98.