This is the first story in a four-part series about Windows Millennium Edition that will highlight each of the themes around which the new consumer operating system was developed: PC health, digital media, home networking and the online experience. Already released to manufacturing, Windows Me will be available in retail channels on Sept. 14.
REDMOND, Wash., July 24, 2000 — Time flies when you’re on Internet time. Since the Internet burst into our collective consciousness in the early ’90s, it’s grown from an email mechanism and information repository to a wildly dynamic world of interactive events, virtual shopping malls, auctions, online communities, gaming and streaming media. Microsoft is putting today’s Internet within the reach of inexperienced and seasoned Web surfers alike — reducing complexity while adding capabilities — with its new operating system geared specifically toward home PC users.
“With Windows 95, the big thing was just getting on the Internet and browsing. Now, we’re going way beyond that,”
said Art Pettigrue, product manager for Windows Me at Microsoft.
“The ability to communicate and share things on the Net has taken a quantum leap, and Windows Me is delivering that experience in a way that feels safe and easy.”
One of Microsoft’s four main objectives with Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), the new version of Microsoft’s consumer operating system, is to enhance consumers’ online experience.
Built to be the optimal platform for the full range of activities the Internet has to offer, Windows Me incorporates many new features that take the fear out of getting set up and productive online, as well as enhanced performance and new features that allow people to participate fully in the online world.
Enhancements Take the Fear out of Getting Set Up and Online
“People who haven’t used the Internet before just want to know that it’s not going to be intimidating,”
“From day one — from the first line of new code — Windows Me was all about how to make it simple for consumers to do the things they want to do.”
With Windows Me, Microsoft reinforces its concept of the Everyday Web by creating a platform that — more than ever — eliminates anxiety and allows people to quickly and intuitively turn to the Internet for any purpose, be it gathering information, connecting with kindred spirits, seeking entertainment, shopping or just browsing around.
The new operating system simplifies formerly complex processes, Pettigrue said, and the interface has been enhanced so people won’t be afraid of the computer doing things they don’t expect.
“The home networking wizard, for example, greatly improves the online experience by providing every computer in the home access to the Internet over a shared connection,”
“It also makes it easier to play multi-player games, both at home and online.”
The new Internet Explorer 5.5 technologies in Windows Me extends this simplicity with new areas in the browser window that give users instant access to Web Communities, MSN, Instant Messenger and NetMeeting.
Windows Me also gives Internet novices a boost with online versions of familiar games, such as hearts and backgammon, right in the Games folder on the Start menu. Without having to find a specific Web site or download software, Windows Me links to the Zone ( http://www.zone.com/ ), a popular online multiplayer gaming destination, and with one click matches the user with an opponent from anywhere on the Internet. The communication barrier is alleviated through a list of standard chat messages that translate automatically if the opponent speaks a different language.
Online Possibilities Just Keep Getting Better
While the new operating system is designed to help new users get online with confidence, Microsoft developers were every bit as focused on empowering users to take part in all of the popular and emerging activities that are happening online — with unbeatable performance and simplicity.
One of the most exciting new technologies built into Windows Me, according to Pettigrue, is DirectPlay Voice Chat, a new feature for online gaming that allows opponents or teammates to speak to each other over the Internet through a voice connection, instead of having to type messages. The ability to chat hands-free is a big plus for gamers, who can strategize with teammates and forge a closer bond with distant players while playing the game. Voice Chat is currently supported by Monster Truck Madness and other Microsoft racing games.
The Harper family has been testing early versions of Windows Me for about nine months, since the first developer release. Each family member — Richard, Cindy and 17-year-old son Bryan — has a computer, and they all use Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) in Windows Me to, as Richard puts it,
“keep from stepping on each other’s toes.”
This feature, which allows more than one person to be online at the same time, over the same phone line, has been enhanced substantially in Windows Me.
“With the improved networking support that’s been put into Millennium, getting ICS up and running was a painless experience,”
“Once we had all the computers on the network, all we had to do was turn on ICS and that was it. The configuration was already taken care of for us. It works extremely well.”
Gaming Performance Takes a Leap
A paramedic in rural northern Michigan, Richard spends much of his online time in newsgroups.
Cindy Harper turns to the Internet to stay in touch with her mother via e-mail, shop periodically and browse around just for fun. Bryan, however, is the Harper who really puts his system through its paces.
Bryan is an active Internet user, researching topics for school, making friends in chat rooms, and pursuing his favorite hobbies — computer gaming and Japanese animation. Not only does he play online games on the Zone (zone.com), he downloads games from the Internet and regularly installs software demos that come with his gaming magazines.
“I’ve got friends all over the place — Georgia, Florida”
“We talk about animation and exchange links to Web pages. Occasionally there will be some online video clips — mostly it’s just information. I log onto MSN’s gaming page, link to the Zone, go into a backgammon room, chat with someone for a sec, then we’ll start a game. While we’re playing, we’ll make a few witty remarks. Most of the time I lose.”
Bryan has noticed a big improvement in the games he plays with Windows Me, which includes the latest DirectX technologies, Microsoft’s platform for rich sound and graphics used in PC games.
“With Direct3D, I’ve seen a vast improvement in game speed and frame rates. It’s a lot smoother.”
PC Protection for the Avid Gamer
Richard and Bryan Harper have found two new functions in Windows Me — System File Protection and System Restore — to be particularly useful for keeping their systems healthy while they download and try new programs.
System File Protection is a module that protects essential system files from being altered or replaced by poorly written installation programs.
“Under Windows 98, it was possible for a badly behaved installer to replace a system file with an incorrect version,”
“You wouldn’t notice it when you installed that program, but once you ran another program, it would crash unexpectedly. With system file protection, it prevents the installer from altering system files — it actually blocks it from happening. The user doesn’t even see it happen.”
Equally powerful is the System Restore feature, which allows users to roll back their entire PC configuration to an earlier point. The Harpers create a
before loading new software, which takes a snapshot of the entire system. If the new software doesn’t work properly or isn’t stable, they are able to back out by using System Restore to return their PC to a previous state based on any restore point they’ve created.
“System Restore works really well for my son. He gets computer gaming magazines with demo disks on them, and he tends to install and uninstall a lot of game demos in a given month,”
“Using system restore, he can actually restore his system to a known good condition after trying out a couple of games — without having to worry about what leftovers might be there. It’s all point and click; very easy to use.”
Internet Explorer 5.5 — Faster, Safer, and Includes Convenient Print Preview
Windows Me includes a new version of Internet Explorer — version 5.5. In addition to the simpler user interface and automated intelligence introduced in version 5of the browser, version 5.5 has been tuned for faster performance and includes an array of enhancements to the underlying platform. These technology additions allow Web developers to create richer content using the Internet Explorer platform, which in turn gives the user richer content to view and work with while they’re online.
Also included is the browser enhancement most requested by users — print preview and enhanced printing support. Bryan Harper uses the new feature when he does online research for school.
“I use print preview to make sure I don’t waste a lot of paper. Say I’m about to print a Web page, and with the print preview I see that it’s a five-page document but the last page is all ads or stuff that I don’t want, I’ll just print pages 1 to 4.”
Another browser enhancement is the addition of 128-bit encryption for all online transactions. This high level of transaction security makes it safe for people to transmit private information of any sort — such as credit card numbers for making online purchases.
Compelling Interactive Scenarios Depend on Partner Innovation and Integration
As an operating system and browsing platform, much of the potential of Windows Me cannot be realized until its new technologies are incorporated into Web sites, software or peripherals. Microsoft relies on fellow industry members to take advantage of Windows technologies, and extend them into new products that enhance the online experience.
One of these players is Intel Corp., which is giving people all kinds of creative and practical ways to communicate in video with its Intel Ò
PC Camera Pack and Intel PC Camera Pro Pack. With the Movie Maker, NetMeeting and Internet Explorer applications in Windows Me, consumers can conduct video phone calls, send video messages via e-mail, set up a webcam and even plug a VCR or camcorder into the back of the Intel PC Camera Pro Pack to download existing video footage. The user scenarios, from creating a video birthday greeting to sharing a child’s first steps with friends and family around the world, are endless.
“The Intel PC Camera Pro Pack is the perfect camera for Windows Movie Maker,”
said Dwayne Canfield, PC Camera product line manager at Intel.
“You can either record live video from the camera itself or pull recorded video from a camcorder into a Movie Maker scene. The improvements in Windows Millennium allow Intel PC Camera users to experience rich interactivity in a much easier way.”
Microsoft’s Pettigrue agrees.
“If you say to your mom ‘Hey, — I want to teleconference with you,’ that just may be overwhelming. But if you can say ‘Here’s a PC Camera — just plug it into the slot where it fits,’ and then, boom, you’re talking, it’s that much easier. Teaming with companies such as Intel contributes to the online experience and the simplicity of it.”
It’s these kinds of real-world scenarios, now within reach of mainstream consumers, that Microsoft’s Pettigrue gets the most excited about with Windows Me.
“The Internet is creating all these new ways to bring people together — just to share and have fun,”
“For instance, I love the fact that I can now play online with my little nephew in Tacoma. And he loves racing games, so we get on now and then and race each other. I think that’s the greatest thing.”