A look at MS's next OS

Microsoft Corp. posted for download for technical beta testers late Friday night an early version of its "Millennium" Windows product, according to the beta tester site Betanews.com .

Earlier in the week, Betanews.com and another online tester site, Activewin.com, were reporting that Microsoft planned to release a build of Millennium before the weekend was over. Millennium is the version of Consumer Windows scheduled to follow Windows 98 Second Edition. It will be the last version of Windows based on the Windows 9X kernel.

Betanews.com Web master Nate Mook says Microsoft is planning to launch Beta 1 in September and is attempting to deliver final product by the first quarter of 2000. The developers release is likely to have the same user interface as Windows 98 Second Edition, except that it may not include a startup screen. "Right now it [the Millennium developers release] is part Windows 98 code and part Windows 2000 code. Exclusive MS-DOS applications and real-mode drivers no longer work. But I'm sure we'll see more when it hits beta this September," said Mook.

Microsoft officials declined to comment on the timing or features of Millennium. But the company has provided some limited hints about new features and functionality slated to be incorporated into Millennium, which it is expected to ship in calendar year 2000. Company officials have said the release will include filtering software allowing parents to block objectionable Web sites. Yesterday at Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting, Microsoft officials said to expect the next versions of Microsoft's operating systems to include the ClearType screen-resolution-improvement technology the company is developing.

According to internal Microsoft documents, the company is hoping to phase out legacy DOS application support starting with Millennium. When Microsoft began soliciting Millennium beta testers earlier this month, it told them to expect the operating system to be "legacy free," testers said. By the time the company ships its first NT-kernel-based Windows release, code-named Neptune, it is expected to have phased out DOS support entirely.

When seeking testers for Millennium, Microsoft required them to specify the type of processor, processor speed and peripherals on which they would be able to test the new operating system, said testers. Microsoft was especially keen on testers who could run the OS through its paces in conjunction with scanners, digital cameras, DVD drives and JAZ/ZIP drives. One potential tester said he was unhappy about Microsoft's new prescreening for Millennium testers.

"As far as I am concerned this is a big slap in the face to people like myself who have been beta testing Microsoft products for years. You are not guaranteed a spot in the beta program. They are just going to fill out their demographic for testing. So, there is no reward for loyalty on Microsoft's part."