Microsoft contacted me this week to finally clear up the confusion about the various Windows Me editions, which include the typical Full and Upgrade versions as well as a new "Step-Up" version. It's the Step-Up version that caused the confusion. When the company announced that Windows Me would be available for only $59 for a limited time, it was assumed that this pricing referred to the Upgrade edition, which normally retails for $109. But Microsoft instead quietly issued the new Step-Up edition, which carries some limitations and changes when compared to the normal Upgrade. And speculation about these limitations has finally been resolved.
"I just wanted to let you know that the version of Windows Me offered for $59.95 for Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE users (the "Step-Up" version) is essentially the same product as the standard Upgrade version for Windows 98, 98 SE and Windows 95 users," a Microsoft spokesperson told me this week. "The only difference \[between the two\] is the price ($59.95 vs. $109) and the fact that Windows 95 users will not be able to use the Step-Up version to upgrade to Windows Me. Both versions offer customers the same full (clean) installation experience option. As with all Windows upgrades, users will need to have a previous version of Windows installed on their PCs."
This is good news for all users of Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE, as the lower-cost product will be acceptable in any installation scenario, assuming that you have your original OS CD-ROM available. I feel comfortable recommending this version to all such users. Windows 95 users, of course, will need to purchase the normal Upgrade edition, however, which has a suggested retail price of $109, but typically costs closer to $89 in stores. Note that there is no Windows Me-to-Windows 2000 upgrade path as of yet, and it's unclear whether one will ever be provided. But Windows Me users will be able to upgrade to the next version of Windows 2000, code-named "Whistler." For more information about Windows Me, please visit the SuperSite for Windows