Windows Millennium headed for dead pile?

Microsoft denies the rumours absolutely, but they're curiously compelling...

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A rumour that Microsoft is going to cancel Millennium seems to be spreading through the industry. The Register heard it via several beta testers a few days back, while Paul Thurrott of WinInfo heard the rumour at Internet World. But after reporting this (as rumour), Thurrott was deluged by Microsoft denials. The gist of the rumour is that Microsoft has decided that Millennium, which is now looking very much like a minor rev of Windows 98, isn't a good idea after all, and has decided to can it, and have another crack later with another project under another codename. This has of course been denied, but you can see the circumstantial evidence that supports it. Millennium was initially talked up by Microsoft as revolutionary and radical, but it became increasingly obvious from the pre-beta code that it wasn't, and once the beta actually came out the word started being spread around that actually it wasn't that much of a big deal, that maybe it would just turn out to be a service pack. You'll recall that Windows 98 SE came from the same kind of process, but running backwards. Clearly Millennium is now a much smaller deal than Microsoft, or perhaps Microsoft's Consumer Windows team, originally intended it to be. It's also clear that Millennium won't bring anything much of value to the Easy PC/PC2001 platforms whose spec will be frozen up in January. There's nothing radical in Millennium now, and no chance of getting radical stuff into it in time to ship with this generation of hardware. And anyway, Microsoft and Intel have already tagged Win98 SE as the relevant OS. So Millennium lacks purpose, unless Microsoft wants to position it as Win98 Plus One for a mid-2000 revenue refresh. Neptune, the truly ambitious OS development plan, is as we've said here ad nauseam going to be very difficult to get out the door, and to get into the kind of footprint consumer PCs will require. If Millennium doesn't make much difference, and Neptune is likely to be too big and too far down the line, then what do you do? Downplay Millennium, and beaver away on something more appropriate (shall we say a re-engineered 9x that really has no Dos and legacy support?) to roll out in the interim? That surely makes more sense than what Microsoft has apparently been doing. We could at this juncture also lob in the status of the Consumer Windows team itself. Microsoft isn't very good at running different OS development teams and keeping them on an equal footing. The NT team was the A team, for example, while the Win9x one was neglected until - oops - Microsoft discovered Consumer NT couldn't be built within a reasonable timeframe. The mess over the premature release of Millennium beta 1 might also be viewed as an indicator of the status of Consumer Windows - ignored, not consulted, overruled? We speculate, of course, but we wouldn't be at all surprised if the operation was quietly mugged in a future reorg. But of course, this whole piece is speculation. As we said, Microsoft has hotly denied that Millennium is being taken out and shot. Back at WinInfo Paul Thurrott has been assured it's on track for release next year, and that although MS isn't giving the press beta 1, "because it's an early build that doesn't necessarily reflect how the final product will look," all will be revealed at beta 2 stage. Paul guesses this will be before the end of the year, and we wait in expectation. ®

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