Windows Millennium Edition ('Windows Me') reviewed

I've finally completed my massive review of Windows Millennium Edition ("Windows Me") Beta 3, which examines the latest release of Microsoft's upcoming consumer operating system. Windows Me Beta 3 is a surprisingly decent product, proving that the old Windows 9x code-base is far more resilient than previously expected. There are simple changes, such as a tweaked and simplified user interface based on Windows 2000, as well as a number of big changes under the hood. For example, Windows Me offers a host of reliability improvements that will benefit any Windows 98 user, including System Restore, System File Protection, and the removal of Real Mode DOS. And despite the questionable bundling of an enhanced Media Player and a movie editing application in a day and age where the company is being sued by the U.S. government for product tying, Microsoft seems to have arrived at a good mix for consumers with Windows Me.

For the review, I tested Beta 3 and a number of pre-Beta 3 builds on a variety of systems, in both upgrade and full install situations. Upgrades to Windows 98 systems were performed as well as clean installations to new hard drives. As expected, the Windows Me install story is relatively painless and Windows 9x users will find few surprises. In use, Windows Me resembles Windows 2000, but includes enough of its own enhancements to maintain a separate identity. And with a code base derived from Windows 98, not Windows 2000, Windows Me ensures that users will receive the ultimate in hardware and software compatibility, especially with consumer-orientated devices.

The final release of Windows Me, which essentially marks the end of the Windows 9x line of products, is currently set for June 2, 2000; expect to see it in stores and bundled with new machines approximately 6 weeks after that. Unfortunately, Microsoft has no plans to offer a public release of Windows Me Beta 3, which is a shame: I expect that many existing Windows 98 users are clamoring to get their hands on this build. Prices are expected to be in the same ballpark as Windows 98 SE, though final pricing has yet to be determined. Windows Me requires a Pentium 150 with 32 MB of RAM; I recommend a Pentium II 300 with at least 64 MB of RAM.

For the full review, please visit the SuperSite for Windows

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