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Windows Millennium Edition (WinME) is virtually ready to ship, according to a report at Win98Central. But the latest version of the code doesn't include drivers for legacy hardware, which strongly suggests Microsoft intends to make the break with the next (and last?) rev of the Win9x code. According to the site, the latest version of the WinME code is "post beta," i.e. pretty much operational. Other sources tell us that Microsoft accidentally released beta 3 RC1 on Saturday, then pulled it, so this is probably the code Win98Central's writer has got hold of. Millennium does seem to be prone to accidental premature releases - this is the second time it's happened during the development process. The OS itself isn't expected to ship until at least late May, but since it was downgraded to approximately the status of a Win9x service pack last year, there's no real obstacle to Microsoft having code ready early. The current code has IE and Outlook Express 5.5, the MovieMaker program which allows you to edit videos, and a few Win2k-style components, including a hibernate function. It removes real mode Dos, but doesn't otherwise make significant progress in terms of legacy removal, so you could think of the removal of driver code from the OS (if that's how it's going to ship) as a kind of legacy removal by axe. Microsoft itself currently faces both ways as regards WinME and legacy. It says that Windows 95/98 and NT 4.0 "do not support legacy-free modes of operation," and that designs with "no legacy hardware parts" will require Win2k or WinME. But although these two support legacy-free systems, they will also run on current systems. That's if you can still get the drivers, of course. Microsoft also expects early "legacy-free" systems, like early legacy-free supporting OS code, to have "components removed from the user's perspective" that aren't removed entirely, really, just hidden. Here's the justification: "The main benefit of legacy-free design is in not exposing legacy components to users. A user who does not have access to these components is prevented from getting into problems with system configuration and usage." Logically, this surely means that tech support in the future should deliberately lie to people about the capabilities of their hardware, right? ® See also: Win98Central story

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