MS to start Millennium beta today

First sightings of next year's model due any time now...

The first beta of Microsoft's Windows 98 replacement OS, codenamed Millennium, should go into beta within the next few hours. The company emailed beta testers yesterday telling them that the code would be available for download shortly, and that beta kits would be sent to them at the end of the week. So very shortly it should be possible to answer two key questions about Millennium. First, how far Microsoft intends to go in terms of legacy removal, and second, how likely is it that the company will meet its shipping targets for the new OS. The two questions relate, of course. Millennium will probably be a relatively simple rev of Windows 9x. Microsoft certainly intends to remove support for legacy ISA devices and may go as far as trying to knock parallel and serial on the head too. That ought to be relatively straightforward. But some observers believe that Microsoft may also intend to do something far trickier - remove legacy Dos support. This would be a rather larger task, and would involve a fair bit of work on the OS kernel. Once Microsoft had got rid of Dos support life would be a lot easier, as quite a few technical issues would have gone away, and the company might even find itself closer to the on/off convergence of operating systems on the NT kernel plan. But the Millennium time scale argues against Microsoft doing too much heavy engineering. The company's expected to put the OS through first beta testing fairly rapidly, and to move on to a public beta in Q4. It needs to have stable, near-finished code by this time if it's to catch the next generation of hardware that's expected to be unveiled late this year. If it actually achieved this, it might be feasible to ship Millennium in the early part of next year, and there's at least one person in Redmond who'd be happy about this. If you read up on the history of Microsoft's OS development, as documented by the DoJ trial subpoenaed emails, on several occasions you'll note that OEM chief Joachim Kempin has lobbied (unsuccessfully, so far) for the next rev to be available at the beginning of the year. Historically ship dates have tended to slip into Q2-Q3 (or go back whole years), but this time, just maybe, Kempin will be happy. ® See also: Gates pushes vision of 'Web-centric' PC

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