The second release candidate, or nearly complete test version of the operating system, was released to beta testers last week, as a district court judge ruled that Microsoft be split into two separate companies. Microsoft has said it will appeal the verdict.
In the meantime, it appears to be business as usual for the development schedule of the upcoming operating system, formerly known by the code-name Millennium. Windows Me is the third installment of Windows 98 and is targeted solely at home PC users. The operating system is expected to be released late this month or early in July.
"It is true that it was released last week," a Microsoft representative said. "It was released to beta testers and partners last week."
The second release candidate is a sign that Microsoft is nearing the official launch of Windows Me, which will be loaded on new home computers and sold as a stand-alone product in retail stores. The software maker generally issues two release candidates before the final code is shipped to manufacturers.
The development of Windows Me has been somewhat tumultuous. Originally envisioned as the consumer version of Windows NT, Microsoft dramatically scaled back its focus as part of a decision to extend Windows 98 into a family of products.
After Windows Me, Microsoft will go to work on Whistler, the code name for the next version of Windows 2000, designed for both home and corporate users. Windows 2000 code is thought to be more stable and reliable than Windows 95 or Windows 98, and Microsoft may be speeding up the release schedule of Windows Me to focus on Whistler, according to sources.
Windows Me is a stop-gap measure, targeted at supporting a variety of technologies that have become popular since Windows 98, Second Edition was released last year. New features in the OS focus on support for home networking and digital music and video, among other areas.
New features of Windows Me include:
System Restore, which
restores deleted critical system files
Auto Update, which automatically downloads updates from the Windows Update site
Home Networking Wizard, designed to simplify adding computers or peripherals to a home network
Windows Image Acquisition, designed to simplify downloading and saving images from digital cameras
Windows Movie Maker digital video editing software.