Windows Millennium goes multimedia

Windows Millennium goes multimedia

Has the multimedia bug bitten you? Do you linger over those iMac commercials promising easy-to-produce home movies? Do your digital audio files outnumber your CDs, or at least your cassettes? And do you even know where your old-fashioned film camera is?

Then you might be ripe for Windows Millennium Edition, which offers new multimedia functions (with a decidedly Microsoft proprietary twist, of course). But if you don't need these digital media features and are happy enough with Windows 98, the new operating system may not offer enough to make it worth the trouble of an upgrade.

Microsoft is unveiling the beta 3 version of Windows Me next week and expects to ship the final release in the second half of the year. Microsoft says this will be the last member of the Windows 95/98 family.

Windows Me beta 3 has come a long way from beta 2. It adds a souped-up digital audio and video player, an improved digital camera interface, and a video-editing program. It's business as usual below decks, though. Interface updates make it look like the relatively crash-proof Windows 2000, but Windows Me still sits atop the same shaky MS-DOS foundation as Windows 95 and 98.

Unless you buy a new PC with Windows Me preinstalled, you may not bother with this update. Windows veterans are likely to be annoyed by many of the interface changes, wizards, and tools intended to help novices configure and debug their systems. Also, many of WinMe's innovations -- including Internet Explorer 5.5 -- are or will be available as free downloads. The remaining bells and whistles may not justify the upgrade.

Though Microsoft developers are undoubtedly well-meaning, the real impetus behind Windows Me is the bottom line: get a new product out there that reflects the spirit of the times. These days that means playing and managing digital media files.

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