MICROSOFT announced last week that is has chosen a release name for its long-awaited upgrade to the Windows operating system. Code-named 'Chicago' during development, the new operating system will be sold under the name Windows 95 and is expected to be available by 1995, later than the original release date set for no later than November of this year. Paul Maritz, Microsoft's senior vice-president for the company's systems division, said this delay was a result of Microsoft's efforts to ensure that the product was ready for market and that Microsoft wanted to ensure that Windows 95 'is a worthy and easy successor to Windows 3.1'. Microsoft's testing programme has included installing the software on thousands of computers to allow for extensive beta testing. Locally, a traditional Chinese version of Windows 95, developed in Taiwan, is expected to ship within three months of the release of the English version. A simplified Chinese version should ship within six months, although Microsoft representatives in Hong Kong were unable to comment about the localisation plans for the simplified version. According to Mr Maritz, the new name has been selected to help ensure product clarity for users. Mr Maritz said research shows that many home users have difficulty understanding what software is installed on their personal computers and that few know what the latest version of Windows is today. 'We have found that most users find our existing version numbering confusing and can't identify the latest version of Windows,' Mr Maritz said. Instead of the product number scheme using decimal point increases, such as from 3.0 to 3.1, for smaller upgrades and full number upgrades for larger releases, Microsoft will upgrade Windows 95 with a scheme such as Windows 95A, 95B and so on. In addition, Mr Maritz said the company has no firm plans to release annual upgrades to the operating system as the name suggests. As part of the marketing drive for the new product, one which Microsoft officials said may be the most extensive in the company's history with the largest financial commitment, Microsoft will implement a logo certification program to help customers identify products which meet Microsoft's requirements for compatibility with Windows 95 and its standards such as Plug and Play which allows auto-configuration of newly-added peripherals. Test labs will be set up to allow for easy testing of products from vendors who wish to participate in the logo program. Microsoft is also assuring customers that they will be able to continue using their existing 16-bit Windows applications on the new platform, contrary to some reports that there may be some compatibility problems. 'We're doing nothing to stop people from developing end-market software for 16-bit Windows,' Mr Maritz said, emphasising, as well, that Windows 95 will also be able to run these applications. 'Windows 95 will do an excellent job of running 16-bit Windows applications.' Microsoft plans to continue making Windows 3.1 available as long as there is customer demand for the product. Still, the company has no firm plans to upgrade its non-graphical DOS operating system to a Version 7, especially since Microsoft is committed to ensuring the compatibility of Windows 95 with any application or driver which runs under DOS. 'We don't plan any release of DOS between now and the release of Windows 95,' Mr Maritz said. 'After that it would be difficult to decide who would be the constituency for a new version of DOS. It would have to be someone who is allergic to anything graphical in their operating system.' Microsoft hopes to leverage its existing user base of roughly 60 million installed copies of Windows in addition to future new PC users to deliver as many as 30 million copies in 1995, according to Brad Chase, general manager for personal operating systems at Microsoft. Still, some in the software industry question Microsoft's claims that the release of Windows 95 may be the most significant product release in the history of the personal computer industry. 'It is a significant release of the Windows environment,' said George Westwood, Lotus Development's product manager for communication products in Asia. Still, he questioned if Microsoft would be able to realise the early sales levels they are targeting. 'It is a very new user interface and in that there may be some problems,' he said. 'It may take some time for people to migrate to Chicago.'