Microsoft previews Windows Me Beta 3

Microsoft Corporation provided its first public look at Windows Millennium Edition ("Windows Me") Beta 3 last weekend at the satellite broadcast of its eXtreme event, which also touched on the upcoming release of the PocketPC, a new generation of Windows CE devices. Microsoft tells me that Windows Me Beta 3 is due this week, and was not released last Friday as reported elsewhere; the release is the most refined to date, with a Windows 2000-like user interface and a number of ease-of-use enhancements. The company says that Windows Me will focus on four main areas, digital media, the online experience, PC health, and home networking.

During the eXtreme event Saturday, Microsoft demonstrated System Restore, which brings the system back to a previously known good state, Internet Connection Sharing, Internet Explorer 5.5, multiplayer gaming over a home network, Media Player 7, digital camera integration, and other features of the new operating system In a "quick boot" test, the company demonstrated that Windows Me can boot to "a usable desktop" much faster than Windows 98, an Apple iMac, or even a Sony Playstation.

Unlike previous versions of Windows 9x, Windows Me is focused solely on the home user, and will not be appropriate for the business arena that is targeted by Windows 2000. A future release of Windows 2000, currently known as Whistler Windows 2001, will include versions for consumers and business users. But Windows Me is the first step toward this unified future, says, Microsoft, at least from a feature perspective.

"This is kind of a snapshot of things that will come down the road," says Shawn Sanford, a group product manager for the Consumer Windows division at Microsoft. "These are really good starting points to the future."

Microsoft demonstrated Windows Me build 2499 at the eXtreme event, which includes the public build of Internet Explorer 5.5 beta that was released this week. Windows Me is scheduled to be released to manufacturing on June 6, 2000 and the product will be available in new systems and at retail 6-8 weeks after that

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