Windows ME is a cosmetic reissue of Windows 98 SE with a minimum amount of
new features and a liberal dollop of new bugs and incompatibilities. There
isn't much new in it you couldn't download from Microsoft's site for
Windows 98. A full install takes nearly 600 Megabytes, but a typical install
is a bit smaller.
Laboratory tests have shown Windows ME to be as much as 30% slower than Windows 98 if more than three applications are running.
If Windows ME offers so little, why issue it at all? The first answer is in Microsoft's financials. Windows 2000 is not selling particularly well and they had to make their numbers two quarters in a row by selling off investments - selling down the cookie jar, as it were. Wall Street noticed. Basically, they need the money. The second answer is that it leverages their monopoly to take over another category of software.
Strategically, ME is being marketed as a consumer operating system only, and business users are being discouraged from considering it. Business users are encouraged to purchase the more expensive Windows 2000 Professional instead. Network features included in Windows 98 were ripped out of ME, but rebellion by beta testers caused Microsoft to put the Client for Novell Networks back in.
Microsoft has not included, nor have they promised, an Active Directory client for ME, making Windows ME incompatible with Windows 2000 Server based networks.
The main new features of the Windows ME package are not part of the operating system at all. They are Microsoft Media Player and Movie Maker, independent applications that have been tightly "integrated" so you cannot install ME without including them, and you can't remove them. Otherwise they are just separate applications. This is a blatantly obvious move to drive Real Media and other multimedia software companies out of the market using exactly the same tactics they use against Netscape.
This is exactly the behavior that caused the Department of Justice to drag Microsoft into court, where they were found guilty. Unfortunately, unfairly leveraging a monopoly is the only business strategy Microsoft knows - so they're going to use it even if it means the DOJ will drag them through judge Jackson's court yet again.
Another new feature is a "roll back" ability, so when Windows messes its pants, you can roll it back to a previous, working version. This is also an imitation of other companies' products. This is a rather necessary feature now, since Microsoft forbids most system builders from shipping a Windows CD-ROM with their computers. The only solution from the builder is an image restore that destroys many of your installs and puts back undesired stuff you may have tediously removed.
Microsoft assures us ME is the last version of Windows based on DOS. This sound familiar because it's exactly what they told us about Windows 98 SE, and Windows 98 before that - and they told us Windows 95 "contains no DOS".
Windows ME has been getting rather mixed review in the press, and it has caused a lot of controversy over on-line polls, and how the results are deliberately distorted.
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