Microsoft Corp. announced Wednesday that it will launch the Japanese version of its Windows 98 operating system on July 25 in Japan.

Japanese personal computer makers will begin shipping systems with the new OS preinstalled the same day.

Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, said personal computer sales in Japan are catching up with those in the United States.

The Japanese version of Windows 98 — an enhancement of the widely used Windows 95 — will come a month after the June 25 release of the English version. The Japanese version of Windows 3.1 took a year to arrive after the English version was launched, while the release of Windows 95(J) took only about three months.

Windows 98 will simplify the use of PCs and features improved integration with the Internet and peripherals, according to Microsoft.

It reduces the time it usually takes to run application software by an average of 36 percent and is created for widespread home use, including playing digital videodiscs and games, according to Microsoft.

Windows 98 will come in two different packages. An upgrade package for current users of either Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 will be priced at 13,800 yen. The full version is priced at 24,800 yen.

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