Windows Millennium Edition (ME) was officially released to manufacturing on Monday, Microsoft announced yesterday; the new, latest, last version of Win 9x will be rolled out on 14 September, at which point it will be available in the shops and preinstalled on machines.
Given the usual six to eight weeks lead time PC OEMs need for testing and general preparation work, the first machines running Windows ME should actually be available about a month ahead of that.
Wouldn't it be nice if all operating system development projects were so easy? Earlier this month Microsoft said it would be releasing gold code to MSDN members in the middle of July, and although RTM hadn't been rubber-stamped until this week, Microsoft reps have been telling people about the 14 Spetember date for a couple of weeks now, and the last round of beta code was to all intents and purposes just Microsoft going through the motions.
The new software includes a new version of Media Player, IE 5.5, digital video, home networking support, and the ability to roll back configurations. But like its predecessor Windows 98 SE, it's pretty much a service pack with enough added bells and whistles for it to be positioned as a 'new' OS. Unlike its predecessor, we trust, there won't be any confusion between it and a real service pack.
You may recall that Microsoft got itself into quite a tangle over free upgrades from 98, and because of the simultaneous release of SE and the 98 service pack. This time around it's crystal clear it's a "new" product. An upgrade will cost you £79, or $109, while the full product will be £139 ($209). ®