Microsoft's Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) went on sale in UK shops today, but some analysts have questioned whether the product will be a worthwhile upgrade.
Windows Me is a version of Microsoft's operating system (OS) designed specifically with home users in mind.
According to the software giant, it features technology advancements in the areas of PC health, digital media, online integration and home networking. It also includes a set of features that make the OS more secure, stable and reliable.
But Ashim Pal, program director at Meta Group, described the product as more of an evolution than a revolution.
"Windows Me will do well among people who enjoy using the latest and greatest OS. However, for the average consumer it's unlikely to do anything special unless they need it for a particular application," he said.
Pal added that Windows Me was designed to be the last OS from Microsoft featuring the Windows 9x kernel but that he was now pessimistic that this would be the case.
He said that Whistler, the next full version upgrade of Windows, was unlikely to be based on the Windows 2000 kernel because it would be difficult to maintain support for drivers on consumer peripherals such as digital cameras.
A Microsoft spokesperson denied this and said that with Whistler it was on track to offer a merged code base between its consumer and business OSs.
Windows Me provides digital media enhancements such as Windows Image Acquisition, which helps users transfer digital images from digital cameras, scanners and other compliant devices, and Windows Movie Maker, which provides users with the tools to digitally edit, save and share home videos.
It also features Windows Media Player 7 and DirectPlay Voice Chat, a facility which allows PC gamers to talk with one another across the internet during gameplay.
On the reliability front, new features of the OS include System Restore, which enables users to roll back their PC software configuration to a date or time when it was working properly, and System File Protection, which prevents the overwriting of critical system files. The AutoUpdate feature allows users to automatically download Microsoft updates without user intervention.
The software includes Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 technologies, which add print preview functionality, core reliability and performance enhancements to improve the home internet experience.
Windows Me is available for retail as a full version as well as an upgrade for users of Windows 95, 98 and 98 Second Edition. PC manufacturers are also offering the OS pre-installed on new consumer PCs.
The estimated retail price for Windows Me is £149 for the full version and £79 for a version upgrade from Windows 95.
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