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Windows ME to RTM next week, ship mid July

Send Jim Allchin on extended leave, and things start to ship - funny that

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Microsoft is to ship the finished English language version of its new consumer OS, Windows ME, to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) members in the second week in July. Factoring in the time taken to produce the CDs and get the mailing logistics together, this means Windows ME is likely to RTM (Release to Manufacture) early next week, and will start appearing on new PCs a couple more months down the line.

Windows ME was still an ambitious project around about this time last year, but since then it's been downgraded to what is essentially Windows 98 Third Edition, so getting it through the beta process in time for late Summer general availability can't have been particularly tricky. But it's beginning to look like Windows ME really is the last of the Win9x line.

Microsoft - in the shape of Bill, no less - has said it's the end of the road before, then changed its mind, but Whistler, the next version of Win2k, is due to go into beta shortly, and to ship next year. The beta programme will include the next, next Microsoft consumer OS, Whistler Personal, no unless something goes horribly wrong, that looks like it for Win9x.

But don't panic - if the DoJ has its way Microsoft will have to carrying on shipping Windows ME until around 2004. But what is it? Another one of those enhanced service releases, with video, IE 5.5, home networking and system restore features. It also seems probable that Microsoft will be using the slogan "It just works" to promote it. We've tried to warn them, as "just" could as equally mean "barely" as "simply", but would they listen? ®

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