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Windows ME the last Win9x OS? Maybe not…

Word leaks out about Tiger, which seems to be some kind of follow-up project

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Just when you're getting used to the idea that Windows ME really is the last of the Win9x line of operating systems, you get a hint that maybe it's not, after all. Once upon a time Win98 was officially the last of the Win9x line, but since then Microsoft has put out two more upgrades, Win98 SE last year and now Windows ME - the latter is almost certainly definitely the last, but if it is, what's Tiger?

The Register has received information that bugs logged from the ME development programme have been sent to a mysterious new project, codenamed Tiger. Although we can't as yet confirm the truth of this, the information is claimed to have come from Microsoft developers who worked on Windows ME.

If it is true, there clearly has to be continuing development of the Win9x codebase, which would mean that Windows ME isn't the last one after all. It might be that Microsoft is just working on a service pack, but as Windows ME is a service pack really, it seems a little early to be getting into that kind of stuff. And do you give service pack development a flashy codename?

But another Win9x messes up the roadmap more than a little. Microsoft will be starting the beta programme for Whistler, the next version of Win2k, fairly shortly, and Whistler is intended to ship next year, in the slot that's become the traditional one for Microsoft's annual Win9x refresh.

It's possible that Microsoft is already getting cold feet about its ability to fit a rev of Win2k into a consumer-sized footprint. That's basically what happened last time around, and at that time the abandonment/postponement of consumer NT caused quite a few problems, because Microsoft didn't still have 9x development rolling properly.

So maybe Tiger is insurance. Or maybe it's intended as a non-desktop OS, for MSN access devices, or perhaps even in association with X-box. Win9x code has certainly suffered from stops and starts over the years, but it's been honed enough in its life for it to be possible to turn it into something lean, mean and efficient if enough work was just put into it. For starters, you could really take out all that Dos stuff, rather than just hiding it, as in Windows ME. ®

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