So the Consumer Windows team had two alternatives: Try and hack
enough of the features out of Windows 2000 so that it would run
acceptably on typical consumer level equipment, or go back to the
old Windows 9x kernel and do another upgrade like Windows 98.
One of the odd things about technology, of course, is that just about anyone can point to Windows NT/2000 and explain that it's better. But why is is "better"? Is it really better? The Consumer Windows team took a hard look at Windows 98 again and realized that it actually had some compelling qualities that make it perfect for Consumers. In fact, it's everything that Windows 2000 isn't, good and bad. So the decision to move forward with a new version of Windows 9x was actually logical, once they got over the corporate mindset of "NT everywhere."
Who says NT has to be everywhere anyway?
Goals for Windows Millennium
In late July, 1999, Microsoft made its second major announcement
about the next Consumer Windows. Along with the news that this
release would be code-named Millennium (Windows 98 was Memphis,
while Internet Explorer 4.0 was Nashville and Windows 95
OSR-2 was Detroit: I guess the days of city name betas are
over), Microsoft explained its goals for this new release and announced
that a "developer's preview" had been shipped to the top
Windows 98 Second Edition beta testers.
"The Consumer Windows Division is focused on truly making computing easy for consumers," said David Cole, vice president of the Consumer Windows Division at Microsoft. "We are excited to reach this first milestone on the path toward delivering a version of Windows specifically designed to enable consumers to take full advantage of their PCs in the 21st century."
Microsoft came to the conclusion that the top areas to focus on for Consumer Windows would be digital media and entertainment, the online experience, enabling the connected home, and making the PC "just work." With that in mind, Millennium will focus on the following four key areas:
"easy" and "simple" appear over and over again
in Microsoft's literature about Millennium, and it's no wonder: If
you had to narrow these goals down to a single vague ideal it would
be this: Millennium must be simple for the consumer to use.
Two months after the Developers Release, the company produced the first major release of its next Consumer Windows operating system, Millennium Beta 1. Because this release didn't accurately reflect the fit and finish of the final release, Microsoft elected not to provide the media with review copies. However, Microsoft did show an interim build of Millennium to select members of the press during Fall Comdex in mid-November and it was apparent by that point that the desired quality was coming together. On November 24, 1999, Microsoft released Windows Millennium Beta 2. (Has anyone else noticed the exact two month spacing between each release?) This release was given out to the press for review, and its the version I'm looking at here.
Incidentally, one major feature was dropped from Millennium between Beta 1 and Beta 2: Activity Centers. Vestiges of this HTML-based user interface component will be found in the online help system in Millennium, as well as a few other applications such as System Restore, but the full-blown HTML-based Activity Centers have been put off until Neptune, the Windows 2000-based version of Consumer Windows that will follow Millennium. According to Microsoft employees I've talked to, Activity Centers were dropped because they just weren't far enough along visually. Enhancements to the core HTML engine in Windows are expected to make Activity Centers possible by late 2001, however.
>> Continue to my review of Windows Millennium Beta 2