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First MS Millennium code is Win98/Win2k combo

But this approach could turn into the road to hell, if it's pushed too far

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Microsoft has issued a limited developer release of Millennium, the next version of Windows 9x, but early reports of its content raise as many questions as they answer. Microsoft has said that it will not include "legacy" support in Millennium, and this certainly seems the case with the code issued this weekend. But that code is a combination of Windows 98 and Windows 2000, so as yet it's not clear which way Microsoft intends to jump. As we've said here in the past (Millennium code due), the simplest route for Microsoft is to rip out support for legacy hardware while avoiding getting involved in heavy engineering on the Win9x kernel, so although some sources think the company intends to remove Dos support from Millennium, we still tend to think it will back off from that. The current suggested schedule for Millennium is for a beta 1 in early September, and shipping in Q1, and that's surely too tight for much radical work. But this weekend's developer release does remove Dos support - sort of. Betanews.com reports that the code is a "partial merger" of Win98 and Win2k code, and suggests that as Win2k code is already non-legacy, this is a good starting point. But although this means there's no Dos mode option and no command prompt, Dos is still in there, so if the real job is to be done, it certainly hasn't been done yet. Real-mode drivers, however, won't work. You can see why these might be viewed by Microsoft as steps towards greater stability, but you can also see the inherent contradictions in what Microsoft is (apparently) trying to do here. It abandoned plans for a consumer OS based on the Win2k kernel earlier this year, and Millennium is part of the substitute strategy, the other leg being Neptune. Win2k has major problems running existing Windows games, and the earlier consumer project would have been likely to have the same problems. Hence Millennium, the Win98 kernel based OS for next year. The next version, Neptune, is intended to be based on the Win2k kernel, but Microsoft has contingency plans for a further Win9x-based release, just in case Neptune doesn't hit the spot. So although the addition of Win2k code to Millennium might aid the convergence plans and might help pave the way for Neptune, it's difficult to see how the obstacles that postponed convergence could have vanished in six months. A more likely outcome, we think, is that Microsoft is currently trying to face both ways, and will take a decision when it releases beta 1 in September. And the way the company has recruited testers for the developer release may provide some clues about what it's up to. It recently invited potential testers to fill in a questionnaire, and used this to decide whether or not they'd be allowed onto the programme. This has annoyed quite a few long-standing testers who didn't get the gig. But it means that Microsoft is being extremely careful about the demographics of this first test cycle. So maybe it wants to get a pretty accurate prediction of likely reactions to the loss of (or at least the hiding of) Dos, and get a gauge of how far it can go in removal of legacy hardware as well. It could of course still go both ways, because the next generation Wintel platform (Wintel PC2001 roadmap) roadmap gives scope for a second bite of the cherry in a year's time. The joint PC2001 spec, an early version of which was released last week, provides a design guide for PCs conforming to the Easy PC Initiative. To some extent Millennium is intended to be the OS for Easy PC, but PC2001 doesn't get finalised until February of next year, and machines based on it won't be out until towards the end of the year. So if Millennium ships in Q1, it'll actually be aiming at platforms based on PC99/PC99a. That argues for a more modest piece of work now, moving swiftly into a Millennium Plus One ("Second Edition?") around Q3 2000. Yes, we know this is only supposed to be a "contingency," but the need to roadmap in sync with PC2001 means it's almost certain to ship. ®

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