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Windows Media Player 7 has been given a Bonus Pack. This allows you to convert MP3 files to Windows Media format, cutting file sizes in half while preserving the sound quality. Which is what Microsoft claims, in any event. The pack also includes eight new skins and nineteen new visual effects, as well as an importer to use Winamp skins.

NTCompatible.com says that Microsoft has released the first beta of Service Pack 2 for Windows 2000 to the beta testers. What's included in this? Good question! If you're a beta tester and have downloaded it, e-mail me some info about it and I'll post it in the next roundup.

For once, Microsoft listened to its customers and is going to give them what they wanted. Winmag.com reports that Microsoft will now provide boot disks for Microsoft's next edition of Windows, Whistler. In previous versions of Windows, you were able to create a set of boot disks that could be used to install the operating system on an empty or damaged system; but with Whistler Microsoft intended that you use the install CD. After much talk and convincing, Microsoft changed its mind, but noted that the boot-floppy feature might not be included on the CD-ROM for the OS itself, but made available as a download from Microsoft's site.

ActiveWin.com reported that a public beta of Internet Explorer 6.0 could be coming soon. It seems that on November 7th, a public Outlook Express 6.0 newsgroup was listed on Microsoft's news servers. The Web site also noted that it could have been a mistake, but that the same mistakes happened a week or so before Internet Explorer 4 and 5 betas were released.

If you remember my Windows Me pieces you'll know I don't think it's exactly Microsoft's best product. It offers no major updates to Windows 98: Second Edition, and in some ways it's actually a downgrade. Microsoft says there's ten reasons you should upgrade to Windows Me, but if you're looking for a better operating system than Windows 98: SE, go with Windows 2000, not Me.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the long-awaited acceleration of Windows 2000 sales has begun. The research company recently released a report stating that Win2k sales will eclipse Windows NT 4.0 sales by the end of the year and that Win2k adoption rates will surpass those of NT 4.0. The biggest gains have come with Win2k Professional, Win2k's business desktop version. But Win2k Server sales will more than triple in the next 12 months and overtake NT 4.0 Server by the end of 2001 as well.

MCPMag.com reported just yesterday that according to sources outside Microsoft, the company is considering an extension on the deadline for completing three key Windows NT 4.0 exams (70-067 Server, 70-068 Server in the Enterprise, and 70-073 Workstation). The new deadline is estimated to be February 28, 2001. Sources say the extension consideration is likely the result of the influx of test takers who have been turned away from test centres due to test slots being filled to capacity. Simply put, seats have sold briskly and Microsoft may extend the deadline at the behest of test centres, so that those centres can accommodate candidates for another two months.

After the many problems encountered with Beta 2 of Office 10, Microsoft decided to cut two of its features. Both the Office Designer tool and the Local Web Storage System will not be included in the final product because the features were not reliable and of "high enough quality" to make it into the shipping product. What's this thing made out of? Gold?

Still haven't voted for us as Site of the Year at Window Planet? Might want to do that before another site demands a recount!

Got Windows related news? Send it in and we'll get onto it. ®

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