February 3, 2000 3:50 PM PST

Microsoft names new consumer OS: Windows Me

Now Microsoft is getting personal.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has settled on a name for its next consumer operating system: Windows Me, short for Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, according to a company representative.

Referred to internally by the code name Millennium, the nickname is now official. Like Windows 98, Second Edition and Windows 98 before it, Windows Me will be available as a retail upgrade and will be loaded on new Windows-based computers. It's due out sometime this year.

Although still in development, Windows Me has already been marked by confusion and turmoil along with Microsoft's consumer software strategy. After chairman Bill Gates publicly announced that Windows 98 would be the last consumer operating system based on the DOS operating system, the company reversed itself by releasing Windows 98, Second Edition, last year and announcing plans for Millennium.

Meanwhile, the company is preparing for what is widely thought to be the company's most stable and ambitious software release to date--the much-delayed Windows 2000. Windows 2000 is Microsoft's new high-end operating system for large businesses and e-commerce Web sites. Due out on Feb. 17 at a launch event in San Francisco, the OS is the company's most expensive software development project as well.

Initially, speculation persisted that Windows Me was planned as a hybrid of the Windows 95 and Windows NT code, perhaps boosted by the decision to drop the "98" moniker from the brand name.

Microsoft has always denied that Millennium contained any Windows NT code, with the possible exception of some functional shortcuts. But Millennium's convoluted development path, coupled with the repeated delays in bringing Windows 2000 to market, have raised questions about the company's strategy in the consumer operating system business.

"As the successor to Windows 98, Second Edition, the name demonstrates Microsoft's commitment to maintaining a consistent brand within the consumer operating system products," a company representative said. "Microsoft believes it will help alleviate some consumer confusion as to which Microsoft operating system will best meet most of their needs."

 

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