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Windows Me Makes Lackluster Debut

By Tim McDonald
Sep 14, 2000 12:00 AM PT

With much less fanfare than past releases, Microsoft Corp. (NYSE: MSFT) officially launched its Windows Millennium Edition, known as "Windows Me," Thursday morning.

Windows Me Makes Lackluster Debut

The latest version of Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows operating system (OS), however, is drawing criticism in the industry because it offers only limited advantages over Windows 98.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed that the company does not intend to make a promotional splash until it releases the much-anticipated "Whistler," the OS based on its new NT technology, as part of the company's new ".NET" Internet strategy.

Whistler could come as early as next year, though many analysts believe the release will be pushed until 2002.

Windows Me has been receiving lukewarm reviews from critics, as many say the OS is slow, unstable, and more prone to crashes than previous operating systems. ETesting Labs found that performance varied as much as 30 percent from one run to the next.

Moreover, a security problem has already been reported in the new system. The problem involves a flaw that allows users who send a certain type of data over the Internet to crash or reboot a Windows Me computer that is running TV software.

Last DOS-Based System

Windows Me will be the last OS based on Microsoft's 20 year-old DOS programming technology.

The software giant was supposed to have abandoned DOS by now, but has had difficulty applying its NT technology to consumer-oriented applications, such as video games.

The company is trying to guide business users toward the more profitable Windows 2000, the NT-based OS, which is normally pre-loaded into more expensive PCs.

Some retailers are already selling Windows Me at discount prices. CompUSA and CDW are selling the product for $10 (US$) less than the official $59.95 price. Microsoft officials said most of the sales are expected to come from manufacturers pre-loading Windows Me on new PCs, although the company is offering an upgrade for Windows 98 users.

Aimed at Home Users

Windows Me is the first Windows OS designed exclusively for the home user, Microsoft officials said.

The OS features Internet Explorer 5.5 as its pre-configured browser. The system offers Movie Maker, Outlook Express 5.5 and NetMeeting 3.1, as well as Windows Media Player 7, a music player that can record, store and play songs.

As for security features, Windows Me includes backup for crucial system files. The OS supports universal plug-and-play and Windows Image Acquisition. The system also prevents applications from overwriting DLL files and has unlimited TCP/IP.

Windows Me requires a minimum of 32 MB of RAM and 320 MB of hard drive space.

Shaky Ground

Despite its public legal battles, Microsoft continues to bundle software with its OS releases. The practice of bundling software with the Windows OS resulted in an antitrust judgment against the company in the ongoing lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Microsoft should be split up because the company violated antitrust law when it bundled the Internet Explorer browser with its dominant operating system, which is used in 80 percent of computers worldwide. Microsoft's appeal of the judgment is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will either hear the case or send it back to the lower appellate court.

Is "too much screen time" really a problem?
Yes -- smartphone addiction is ruining relationships.
Yes -- but primarily due to parents' failure to regulate kids' use.
Possibly -- long-term effects on health are not yet known.
Not really -- lack of self-discipline and good judgement are the problems.
No -- angst over "screen time" is just the latest overreaction to technology.
No -- what matters is the quality of content, not the time spent viewing it.