On June 25, 1998, Windows 98 was released to the general public. The 90s were generous in Microsoft operating systems, starting with Windows 3.0 and reaching the second edition of the software featured in this article. And in particular, Windows 98 was the transition point between old and newer operating systems, which began with Windows XP.
Windows 98 introduced a series of improvements with respect to its predecessor that today are standard on any modern computer with some Windows. Towards the second half of the 90s, the USB port was still a novelty and there were not many devices that would take advantage of it; most keyboard, mouse or printer peripherals had their own proprietary port.
However, Windows 98 went ahead to the future and offered support for keyboards, scanners, printers and virtually any device with USB.
Likewise, a perhaps more radical change from Windows 95 was in its driver system. With Windows 98 was introduced what is called Windows Driver Model (Windows driver model, or WDM), which left behind the scheme of previous versions of the operating system. The WDM enabled several advancements in hardware compatibility and capability; for example, the use of more advanced devices for audio with better support for MIDI. Or, use TV tuner cards to play the content in the operating system.
However, those advances were internal rather than external. On the outside, Windows 98 did not look much different than Windows 95, and this was due, in part, to Microsoft speaking of the new version of the software as a refreshment of what already existed and not as a complete change. Although Windows 98 had greater integration with everything related to the Internet, its staging was similar to Windows 95, in addition to operating on MS-DOS; this only changed with the arrival of Windows XP.
As Windows 98 was released to the public, the presence of the internet grew stronger and stronger in the homes of the world. Microsoft saw an opportunity in this and released the operating system with a series of applications and programs aimed at enhancing the rudimentary online experience of the time; among them was a new version of Internet Explorer, plus Outlook Express as a mail application and NetMeeting, a precursor tool -and very basic- of the current Zoom, Teams or Google Meet.
It was precisely Internet Explorer that caused Microsoft some headaches. In May 1998, prior to the launch of Windows 98, the United States government filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that some of its actions constituted a monopoly and limited the actions of its competitors. One of the points in dispute was precisely Internet Explorer, since its inclusion by default in Windows violated free competition and, furthermore, it was not possible to uninstall it.
But that lawsuit ultimately ended in nothing more than a negligible fine, which did not prevent with each new iteration of Windows there would be new software built-in by default that performed similar functions to third-party software. An example of this were native support for compressed files or for recording optical discs, which arrived in future versions of the platform.
A year after its release, Windows 98 would receive a major update called Windows 98 Second Edition. In this version many errors present in the original were corrected, in addition to expanding the support for USB devices: for the first time, it was possible to connect external storage via USB.
Some applications were also updated, such as Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player. However, Windows 98 SE was in the long run the same old Windows 98, fixed.
The lifespan of Windows 98 was extended by several years. The arrival of Windows Me did not change the landscape much, since that operating system was not really popular because of how good it was; It was not until Windows XP in 2001 when the light of Windows 98 began to turn off, which little by little began to be seen as an old operating system and typical of another era. It was eventually discontinued in 2002 and support ran out in June 2006, just over eight years after its original release.
Windows 98 was the true last bastion of the old DOS-based Windows. As long as we omit Windows Me, although the truth is that it is better not to remember that version of Windows.