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Windows ME hits beta 3, to demo this weekend

Live from Redmond. Well a bit live, anyway...

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The first public showing of the next version of Win9x, Windows Millennium Edition (or WindowsMe, as Microsoft now tags it) will take place this weekend at 30 movie theatres across the United States. Along with WindowsMe, the audience will see Pocket PC and FrontPage 2000 demos beamed direct from Redmond. The event, Spring 2000 eXtreme, is free to people who've pre-registered at the Microsoft site; you get to enter a competition, and you get a free T shirt and some of those pesky trial (don't say that word) software CDs. But even so it doesn't seem to us much of a reason for getting out of bed on Saturday morning. Previous such events, however, have been deemed successful by Microsoft, so what do we know? The WindowsMe demo doesn't of course automatically mean that the product's ready to ship, but although Microsoft is adept at demonstrating wobbly products (it's not always so good at editing videotape), ActiveWin reports that it hit beta 3 yesterday. This ought to leave plenty time to get the software to gold code by the middle of the year, and into the shops around August. Despite the ambitious noises that initially came out of Microsoft on the subject, WindowsMe is now effectively Windows 98 revision three, another service pack with knobs on. The knobs this time include universal plug and play, digital photo and music support, improved home networking (but not, ahem, Windows 2000 networking), and the ability to restore crashed machines to previous states. Curiously, Microsoft group product manager Shawn Sanford has been telling today's WSJ that WindowsMe will probably cost around $89 at retail, and he even seems almost to accept that the name is, er, crud. Microsoft doesn't usually talk price this early in the game, but maybe the company's softening users up to expect it to cost real money this time around. Last year, you'll recall, Windows 98 SE was introduced with a similarly unexciting list of additional features. The problems then, however, were that its release got entangled with the release of the service pack it was based on, and as The Register ruthlessly reported, Microsoft got into a terrible tangle over free service packs and the pricing of upgrades. So get ready folks - this time around there's no mistake, and it really is an $89 OS. Probably. ® See also: ActiveWin

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