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Windows Me discounts and Duron-based PCs on tap

Microsoft's latest operating system comes out tomorrow, but some versions are already being sold at a discount.

Windows Me officially comes out tomorrow, but some versions are already being sold at a discount.

A number of retailers, including CompUSA and CDW, have begun to sell the Windows 98 upgrade version of Windows Me for $49.95, or $10 less than the official price of the software. Many other retailers are expected to begin to promote similar deals on the upgrade version of Windows Me tomorrow when Microsoft formally releases the product, sources close to Microsoft said.

Along with the new operating system, a number of major computer manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard and IBM, will unveil new PCs for the holiday season tomorrow. Some of the new machines will contain Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD) elusive Duron chip, said sources.

Windows Me is Microsoft's latest operating system for consumer PCs. The new OS will replace Windows 98 almost immediately in the market. The two operating systems don't differ greatly, according to analysts.

"Six months ago they said it would be a minor release, and it is just a minor release," said Neil McDonald, an analyst with Gartner.

Nonetheless, Microsoft is known for its ability to orchestrate a retail orgy, and tomorrow should be no exception. The noise level will be lower than when Microsoft introduced Windows 95 and 98, but promotions are inevitable. Electronics retailers will begin to occupy more advertising real estate in Sunday newspapers, for instance.

Computer makers will also be touting their new systems for the holiday buying season, which will effectively begin tomorrow.

Some of these PCs apparently will contain AMD's Duron processor. A low-cost version of the Athlon processor, Duron has yet to be featured in computers from a major manufacturer in the United States. The chip came out in June, but that was too late for most manufacturers to incorporate it into their back-to-school models.

IBM, which has released Duron-based PCs in Canada and Asia, will release a consumer PC containing the chip tomorrow, according to sources. Gateway and Compaq Computer are expected to release similar PCs in the near future. Earlier, both Gateway and Compaq said they planned on coming out with Duron PCs in September or October.

Duron currently runs at 750 MHz, and faster versions will come out before the end of the year.

Although Windows Me formally debuts tomorrow, some computer makers have already begun to sell it. Gateway, for instance, began to bundle Windows Me on its consumer PCs in mid-August.