RealTime IT News

Microsoft Gets Personal with New OS

Microsoft Corp. Thursday trumpeted a few deals, the most important of which is perhaps the roll out of its new operating system for home PC users.

Microsoft® Windows® Millennium Edition, more cutely known as Windows Me, delivers technology advancements in the areas of PC health, digital media, home networking and the online experience.

Some new features include System Restore, which enables users to roll back their PC software configuration to a date or time when it was working properly; System File Protection, which prevents the accidental or unauthorized overwriting of critical system files; and AutoUpdate, which can automatically download important Microsoft updates without user intervention.

In addition, Windows Me, combined with "fast-boot"-optimized PC hardware, will provide home users with faster access to information, communications and entertainment at any time.

Microsoft teamed with fellow heavyweights Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard and IBM Corp., who will all offer Windows Me on their PC lines.

Calling it essentially the third version of Windows 98, Gartner Group analyst Neil MacDonald said the play was pitted squarely against Apple Computer Corp.'s iMac.

Though MacDonald acknowledged that it had gotten easier with its improved audio player with MP3 support, Microsoft still has a ways to go before it can compete with Apple's ease of use.

"It's difficult because Microsoft is a software company," MacDonald explained to InternetNews.com Thursday. "Apple has both software and hardware so they have much tighter integration. What Microsoft is shying away from with the Millenium Edition is business clients; they want businesses to go for the higher priced Microsoft 2000 platform. But they also removed some of the ease of use technology, such as networking support and a resource kit, which were part of Windows 98."

Celebrating like the rock star of a software company that it is, Microsoft kicked off a 25-date tour of visiting malls Thursday in San Francisco, where representatives will let consumers test drive Me's new features. The Meet Me Tour, perhaps akin in scope in the tehcnology sector to U2's hyped PopMart tour of three years ago, will give visitors hands-on introduction with an interactive home-like display where people can create and share photos, produce a video, and of course, experiment with the system's music features.

The release comes a day after 14-year veteran Paul Maritz, group vice president of the Platforms Strategy and Developer Group, called it quits. Maritz, 45, was responsible for overall platforms strategy, product planning and business development for the development of Microsoft's tools and related platform technologies.

He will be replaced by Vice President Sanjay Parthasarathy, who formerly reported to Maritz. Maritz's exit is the latest in about a half dozen defections from the software titan, which had battled the government in an antitrust case the whole year.

While the resignation of key employees sees most companies, even blue chips, take a drubbing in the stock market, Lehman Brothers analyst Mike Stanek reiterated his buy rating on Microsoft Corp Thursday.

"Our view is that the company's end markets continue to strengthen based on: 1) Improving corporate demand; 2) Improving White Box business; and 3) Strengthening consumer demand," said Stanek, who labeled the firm's product flow "remarkable."

Available in full or as an upgrade, Windows Me is available now at an estimated retail price of $209 for the full version and $109 for a version upgrade from Windows 95. Between now and Jan.