Microsoft gussies up Windows Me for launch

The little consumer OS that could is set to launch tomorrow, though Windows Me won't get the type of big-budget send-off that we saw with Windows 95 and 2000. In the weeks leading up to the launch, the company has seeded the press with informational briefings touting Windows Me's prowess in home networking, digital media, online integration, and PC health, a set of technologies that makes the OS more stable, reliable and secure. And though the Windows Me launch consists solely of a Webcast with a mystery celebrity host (I'm hoping it's 80's teen sensation "Tiffany." No, not really), Microsoft is taking its Windows Me message to the people with a "Meet Me" tour that will visit malls and shopping centers across America. However you look at this low-budget, low profile event, one thing is clear: Windows Me is aimed solely at Joe Blow middle America, and Microsoft isn't making any apologies.

In a way, it's rather fitting. Previously, Windows was forced to perform dual-duty in both businesses and the home. But Windows Me is the first in what will likely be a long line of products aimed squarely at consumers. As such, it embraces digital music, movies, and photography while giving consumers the hardware and software compatibility that they've come to expect from Windows 95/98. And make no mistake: Windows Me is a follow-up, technologically, to the old Windows 9x line and is not to be confused with Windows 2000, Microsoft's system for business desktops and servers. Windows Me does include some Windows 2000 technologies, however, such as its System File Protection (SFP) feature, while including some new stability and reliability enhancements of its own.

Critics have noted that Windows Me is a technological lame duck, since the next consumer Windows product will be based on Windows 2000, and not the old 9x line. But Microsoft will make the transition from Me to this new system--code-named Whistler Personal Edition--a simple one, and Windows Me still includes enough new features to be considered a worthwhile upgrade from Windows 98. Anyone that's involved with digital media will definitely want to take a look, and its reliability features, such as System Restore, SFP, and Auto Update, make this release applicable to the general computing public. Windows Me also has a number of other worthwhile features, including one that makes it easier to network home computers and share an Internet connection.

Windows Me will ship on September 14th in the following languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Brazilian, Danish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Finnish, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and Thai. The remaining languages--Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, HK Chinese, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Slovak and Slovenian--will follow shortly thereafter. For more information, please visit my SuperSite for Windows, which includes a number of Windows Me-related reviews and technology showcases as well as a Windows Me FAQ. And later this week, I'll be publishing an interview with Brian Livingston, co-author of "Windows Me Secrets.

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