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Windows Me

New Consumer Windows Promises Less Pane

Windows Me Coming in September 2000

By Jim Bray

Windows 98 is history.

Get ready to welcome the new “Millennium Edition” of the popular operating system, premiering in a store near you on September 14th.

Windows ME (or “Windows Me” - as opposed to “Windows You”) is the latest and supposedly greatest update to the OS Bill Gates first unleashed with such hoopla in 1995.

The Millennium version promises a more stable and robust computing experience, as well as offering new toys to make your time more enjoyable and productive.

The latter emphasis includes new digital media and entertainment features and an enhanced version of Microsoft’s Web Browser, as well as supposedly easier and more intuitive home networking capabilities.

Other than the home networking stuff, however, it appears that these new “value added features” are icing on the cake.

I’m already a big fan of the Windows interface, but get very frustrated when its instabilities leave me high and dry on the shoulder of the information superhighway.

Therefore, it’s the “PC Health” features that interest me the most, and I’m looking forward to checking them out.

Those features include cutting Windows’ connection to DOS. Windows Me offers DOS support through “protected mode” which, Microsoft claims, still lets you run most DOS apps. We’ll see.

This “no-DOS” is also supposed to mean that Windows Me boots more quickly than the 9x versions, which is a most welcome development.

“System file protection” isolates some 900 vital files, preventing them from being overwritten or deleted. An enhanced “System Restore” is a “fail safe” feature that lets you return Windows to an earlier configuration that worked if the system starts screwing up.

A new “hibernate” feature, which will only work on new PC’s that support it, remembers where you were at shutdown (including the applications and/or documents that were open) and zips you back there quickly when you power up again.

“Gee Whiz” features guaranteed to pique the interest of Janet Reno include a nifty and simple way to assemble your own video movies right in Windows, and a new “Windows Image Acquisition” technology that lets you preview and/or manage pictures without having to download them from the digital camera or scanner.

This requires “WIA” compatible imaging devices, of course, but that appears to be the way the marketplace is going anyway.

If you’re in the market for a scanner or digital camera, you may want to keep this “WIA” standard in mind…

Not surprisingly, the Internet is a big consideration in Windows Me. Internet Explorer 5.5 is on the Windows CD (isn’t including MSIE with Windows what got Gates in trouble in the first place?), and it has a neat new feature that lets you preview how Web pages will look when you print them.

Anyone who’s printed out a Web page, only to find the end result looks nothing like you expected it to, will undoubtedly like this feature.

MSIE 5.5, by the way, is also available for download from Microsoft’s Web site – as is Media Player 7, the version now included in the new Windows.

Media Player 7 is a much more flexible and powerful application than before. It also comes with several “skins” that let you change its look to suit your own taste – if you care about such things.

Me thinks Home Networking is a real wave of the future – methinks it probably is, too – and so a new Home Networking Wizard is designed to make connecting to your other PC’s a lot easier. Windows Me also pre-installs all the core networking software, and includes support for Universal Plug and Play (as opposed to the “Plug and Play” that’s been around for a few years) which, at least theoretically, will make updating and configuring easier.

Then again, that was what they said about Plug and Play…

Pricing will be similar to that for Windows 98, and a special promotion will sweeten the deal for current users of Windows 98. Retail pricing will be all over the map, depending upon which store you visit, so there isn’t much point in putting a “suggested retail price” here.

Whether Windows Me will be a big improvement over Windows 9x remains to be seen. I hope it’s as stable as Windows 2000 Pro, but I won’t hold my breath.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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