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Special report It's only a short time since Windows Me - Microsoft's 'final' operating system based on the Win9x kernel - was released, but we're already seeing bug reports, problems and fixes for the new OS, writes Luis Escalante.

Customers buying new systems with Windows Me pre-loaded, aren't likely to be having many problems, but users people trying to upgrade using the $50/£40 upgrade package, have already started to report difficulties and mis-happenings, with driver and application compatibility being a common problem.

Some people aren't even upgrading for one of two reasons: they’re running Windows 2000, or they reckon they don’t need a 'Windows: Third Edition.' There's some point to that; you can download most of the add-ons, and so-called 'enhancements', from the Windows Update Web site. But haven’t we heard this somewhere before? When Windows 98 Second Edition was released, the same gripes and opinions did the rounds, but a lot of people upgraded in the end anyway, and minor improvements are still improvements to the people who want the latest and greatest.

Microsoft of course doesn’t want to admit that Windows Me is a small update, but it hasn't been shouting too loud about the product. In the US it isn't hosting a single launch event like the ones it's done in the past, and instead is mounting promotions in malls across the country. This certainly makes Windows Me seem more like a minor release than a major one.

Bundling and integration

Microsoft's integration of Internet Explorer into the OS is currently the major legal issue for the company, but Windows Me makes it clear it's not about to stop bundling of its own accord. Instead, it's moved further towards bundling and integration of applications, two of the more significant ones being Media Player and Movie Maker. These applications compete with those of companies that provide multimedia players and video-editing software. And here’s the kicker: Microsoft has made it impossible to install Windows Me without also installing the Media Player and Movie Maker apps. Keep in mind we are on the Internet, and the Internet contains everything and anything; so despite Microsoft's efforts we have the product to literally yank those two applications out!

Remember the handy tool, 98Lite, which allowed you to separate Internet Explorer from Windows 98? Well, Shane Brooks, the author, has created 98Lite Me, which creates items in Windows Me’s Control Panel to uninstall Media Player, Movie Maker, and hundreds of megabytes of other programs. 98lite showed that even with Win98 you didn't have to have IE for the OS to run, and 98lite Me does the same trick for Media Player and Movie Maker. It's clear that Microsoft didn't have to make those programs non-removable for technical reasons.

Brooks himself says he easily runs Windows Me in less than 70MB of disk space, even with Me's version of Internet Explorer retained. To get either 98Lite or the most recent 98Lite Me, go to www.98lite.net.

Internet Explorer is obviously bundled into Windows Me, but it comes in a new flavour, version 5.5. To tell you the truth, it went from Vanilla to French Vanilla, because the only thing added was Print Preview, which could have easily been added into IE 5.01, or even 5.02. An interesting fact, uncovered by Paul Thurrott of WinInfo, is that Windows Me doesn’t include the final version of Internet Explorer 5.5, as gold code dates for the two products didn't entirely sync. Considering the fairly small changes in 5.5, it's also worth noting that the new cookie management features Microsoft announced in July are for 5.5 only.

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