This is the fourth in a four-part series about Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me, highlighting each of the themes around which the new consumer operating system was developed: digital media, home networking, the online experience and PC health. Already released to manufacturing, Windows Me will be available in retail channels on September 14.
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 5, 2000 — Imagine a PC that can take care of itself when it comes to servicing, upgrades or troubleshooting. While it might seem as likely as toddlers making their own doctor’s appointments, for Dennis Wise it’s already a reality. Wise has been beta testing Microsoft’s new consumer operating system, Windows Millennium (Windows Me), for the past year.
“I like the security features in Windows Me that tell me when a new plug-in will improve my browsing experience and whether the plug-in is safe for use on my computer, and then give me the option of installing it or not,”
Richard Harper, of Reed City, Mich., also has tested a beta version of Windows Me. Harper, who volunteers for online newsgroups that offer advice to users who are experiencing difficulties, says that the automated update features in Windows Me are especially valuable to the novice users he encounters in newsgroups.
“The fact that security updates and essential service updates will be delivered automatically will help users keep their systems safe, which should eliminate a lot of potential worry,”
“If you want, your system can automatically be kept up to date with fixes for all the known security threats.”
It was the vision of an operating system that can practically take care of itself that drove the development of Windows Me, according to Art Pettigrue, product manager for Windows Me at Microsoft. Released for beta testing last year, the Windows Me operating system will be available in retail channels Sept. 14. Developed around four themes — digital media, home networking, the online experience and PC health — Windows Me was built to be the optimal platform for users who want access to a full range of home computing activities.
A Healthy PC
“PC health is all about taking the fear out of computing,”
“For both brand new and experienced users, Windows Me has improved the overall computing experience by making the PC easier to use and more stable. Having an easier and more stable computing experience for users of all levels encompasses the whole idea of PC health, as well as Windows Me.”
Several features in Windows Me, according to Pettigrue, will contribute to a healthier PC — and a smoother PC experience for users. Fast Boot, when used with optimized hardware, gets the PC up and running in 30 seconds or less.
“You don’t have to wait for your TV or your VCR,”
“Now you won’t have to wait for your PC either.”
System File Protection prevents a user from overwriting critical system files. A feature called Smart Menus automatically displays users’ favorites while hiding the items not regularly accessed. When new hardware is installed, Windows Me checks the accompanying driver to verify that it is authentic, current and safe. An updated Help and Support Center provides users with an easy, centralized place to get answers to all their questions — from the simple to the complex. And Windows Me delivers the latest fixes, drivers, updates and enhancements for their operating systems directly to the desktop. One feature, however, seems to be at the top of everyone’s list, testers and developers alike: System Restore
“The benefits of Systems Restore are tremendous,”
“A PC can go down from something as simple as a failed install. The traditional thing to do is to go through a routing system and talk with a technician, which can take a long time. Now, with System Restore, users can go through the wizard and go back to a date when everything was working.”
The System Restore feature allows Windows Me users who encounter a problem to go back to a point where their system was working properly. System Restore takes
of its hard drive configurations at regular intervals, determined either by the user or by default. That way, a user who experiences some difficulty can easily return to a point when the system was operating correctly. Restore points are also created before every major change is made — like a software installation or a download — that may be risky or make the PC unstable. Should a problem occur, the user can choose a restore point that was set at a time or date before the change occurred.
System restore allows users to completely undo whatever they just did,
“beta tester Harper adds.”
I think it will eliminate a lot of the common problems users encounter as they go about their daily computing tasks.
The feature was also designed to restore a system without sacrificing personal files, according to developers. Items such as documents, email messages and browsing history are saved, even when System Restore is rolled back to an earlier date.
According to Pettigrue, the feature not only saves users a tremendous amount of time, but is also efficient in terms of the disc space it requires.
“System Restore works so well that it takes three minutes or less to go through the wizard, pick a date, reboot the machine and be up and running again,”
“And it only takes up a maximum of 12 percent of hard disk space.”
A New Model for Help and Support
For the first time, says Denise Rundle, general manager of Global Support Automation at Microsoft, Microsoft has integrated help and support within the operating system to make it simple for the customer to get help.
“Customers used to have to go to several different places when trying to solve a problem. With Windows Me, it’s all in one place,”
From the Help and Support Center, customers can find self-help resources; regularly refreshed content gives users access to the most up-to-date information. Users can also connect with a Microsoft support professional for assisted support. The support features were developed to make it convenient for the customer, according to Rundle. Should customers require assisted support, they can automatically upload information from their systems directly to a Microsoft support professional.
“This gives support professionals access to a comprehensive picture of the user’s problem and leads, ultimately, to a quicker and more efficient resolution,”
says Rundle, who stresses that the data sent in by customers is confidential and specific to each problem. She says that Microsoft also plans to use the data — in aggregate — to aid in the development of future products.
Rundle says that providing error message extensions and online assisted support also enhances the computing experience for users. Error message extensions take users to specific Web pages that have the most updated information.
“It gives customers support in the context of the specific error message they received,”
Partnering With Manufacturers So Users Can Get Help in One Place
The Help menu on Windows Me also offers links that provide direct access to the manufacturer of the user’s computer.
“We’ve been committed to working with our manufacturing partners throughout the development of Windows Me to make sure they’re fully integrated,”
“We know our customers don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out where to go for help. Windows Me offers a direct route to the company that manufactured the computer.”
For users with Compaq Presario desktop and notebook machines that run Windows Me, the Compaq Knowledge Center is a standard feature. The Compaq Knowledge Center offers users one-click access to hardware and software support, automated online support assistance, tutorials, technology updates and forums for knowledge sharing. Critical system diagnostics are communicated online via eService, which routes information directly to a Compaq support specialist.
“When designing the Compaq Knowledge Center, we worked closely with Microsoft and our eService partners to develop an integrated and dynamic online assistance experience,”
says Steve Young, Compaq’s vice president of Worldwide Customer Care.
“The Compaq Knowledge Center effectively connects customers with the relevant information and assistance they seek, when they need it.”
Gateway also offers access to help and support tailored for Gateway users. Created specifically for Windows Me, Gateway’s new HelpSpot offers consumers a place to learn how to personalize their PCs, send email, learn about the Internet or resolve a problem. In addition, Gateway’s help center provides videos that show users how to clean a mouse, change screen colors and perform a variety of other tasks. HelpSpot also features an online dictionary and links to Gateway and Microsoft Web sites offering users information about products and support services.
“Gateway customers truly benefit from the blending of Gateway HelpSpot and Microsoft Windows Me Help and Support Center,”
says Jim Hobby, vice president of Consumer Client Care at Gateway, Inc.
“Introducing new ways to help users get the most from their PCs is an ongoing initiative for Gateway. The Microsoft Windows Me approach for having a single access point to user-friendly, self-help information is a natural and positive progression for Gateway clients.”
IBM, too, has developed a help and support solution that works in conjunction with Windows Me Help and Support Center. The Access ThinkPad button, an on-system tool, offers customers instant connectivity to a range of help and support features.
“IBM and Microsoft customers want a simple, yet enhanced mobile computing experience,”
says Rick McGee, vice president, IBM ThinkPad marketing.
“The improved user experience that Windows Me offers complements the one-button access to IBM service, support and resources provided by the ThinkPad Button.”
For Pettigrue, the most important component of the new Windows Me operating system is the convenience experienced by users.
“From System Restore to Fast Boot to the improvements and advances we’ve made in terms of product support and services, everything contributes to an easier, more stable computing experience for users at all levels,”
“Users know when they need help — but they don’t always know where to get it. PC health is all about providing an easy-to-use computer that provides solutions to problems easily and quickly. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve kept that at the forefront of our thinking throughout the development of Windows Me.”