Windows ME: Available for you in September

The eight months of testing is over for the minor upgrade to Windows 98. Now, on to Whistler

The eight months of beta testing is over. Windows Millennium Edition is done, according to Microsoft.

On Monday, Microsoft released to manufacturing its Windows ME product. The company said copies of its Windows 98 successor will be available for retail purchase on 14 September.

The estimated retail price for Windows ME will be the same as for Windows 98, said Microsoft: $209 (about £138) for the full-package product and $109 (about £72) for an upgrade from existing versions of Windows.

Windows ME is slated to be the final Win9X-kernel-based release in Microsoft's Windows product line. It is a minor upgrade to Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition, targeted to provide advances in the areas of home networking and simplified Internet access.

The product includes as integrated components Internet Explorer 5.5 and Windows Media Player 7.

PC makers were slated to receive their gold code from Microsoft as of Monday. Typically, following their own final testing and burning processes, PC makers vie to be the first to ship machines preloaded with the latest Microsoft Windows release. But Microsoft officials said it was unclear when the first PCs preloaded with Windows ME would become commercially available.

Microsoft is planning an official product launch for 14 September, but declined to offer any specifics.

"There won't be the big hoopla thing, like we had with Windows 95," said Art Pettigrue, a product manager with Microsoft's Consumer Windows division.

"There will be no tents, and Jay Leno won't be there," Pettigrue added, referring to the carnival-style Windows 95 launch hosted by Leno on the Microsoft campus in August 1995.

Microsoft developers had told some corporate beta sites that the product was finished late last week, said one tester who requested anonymity.

But it wasn't until about 1pm EDT (6pm GMT) on Monday that the company officially told its testers that the code had gone gold.

"Build 3000.2 of Windows Millennium Edition was released to manufacturing (RTM) on 19 June, 2000, and we are pleased to announce the release of yet another fantastic operating system," read Microsoft's Consumer Windows team's note to testers.

All official beta testers are slated to receive complimentary CD versions of Windows Me from Microsoft starting 26 June.

Microsoft also asked testers to hold off from submitting requests to participate in beta testing of future consumer Windows versions, as the company has yet to make public its product intentions in this area. In fact, Microsoft is aiming to deliver its first beta release of its Whistler Windows operating system to testers by late August.

According to Microsoft internal documents, Whistler will be available in many 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, including consumer and business versions.

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