A test version of the technology Microsoft Corp is developing to tackle the staggering cost of administering desktop computers appeared for the first time over Christmas. An alpha release of the software, known as Memphis, was sent under strict non disclosure agreement to a small number of OEM customers and software vendors, reports ClieNT Server News. The reason for the early look at Memphis, which is expected to reach the market as Windows 97 but is currently called Win9x, just in case, is to give developers a start on writing drivers for the thing. Memphis is the first operating system to use the WDM Win32 Driver Model that’s supposed to appear in both Win9x and NT 5.0, finally giving both of Microsoft’s 32-bit operating systems a common set of drivers. The hotter issue these days however is the $8,000- $12,000 a year it costs a company to tend each of its personal computers. Microsoft has responded with its so-called Zero Administration for Windows initiative. Built into the Memphis Developers Release, as Microsoft terms the alpha release, is a module that automatically downloads and updates system components from a corporate intranet site. The test version of this Internet System Update only works off of Microsoft’s own Website. System Update eliminates the cost of manually upgrading or patching operating systems over a corporate network. As part of the System Update test, Microsoft is expected to use the technology to keep Memphis beta sites supplied with current code. The WDM pieces in the early Memphis version include support for the Universal Serial Bus, the 1394 bus, digital data streaming, digital video disk, digital audio, imaging and input devices like mice. The few who got the Memphis alpha discovered last week that it looks just like Win95 for the simple reason that work on the Win97 graphical user interface, which will be based on Internet Explorer 4.0, hasn’t been finished, so the alpha uses the Win95 interface and shipped with Internet Explorer 3.01. The plan is to have Internet Explorer 4.0 and the Windows 97 graphical user interface ready for the first Memphis beta release, now penciled for delivery in March.