Windows Millennium - 1998 all over again?

Microsoft's upcoming release of its successor to Windows 98, code-named Millennium, is little more than a marketing refresh, according to a Gartner Group analyst.

What do Microsoft and a tube of toothpaste have in common?

A lot, from a marketing standpoint, says Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research area director for personal and distributed technologies at the Gartner Group. Any toothpaste, whether it offers tartar control, baking soda, or whitening, ends up doing the same thing: cleaning your teeth.

But marketing campaigns for toothpaste have to be refreshed every couple of years to keep consumers interested.

Gartenberg says the same for Microsoft's upcoming release of its successor to Windows 98, code-named Millennium. It's little more than a marketing refresh to Windows 98, Gartenberg says.

"It's been two years since Windows 98. Millennium is merely the next iteration," he notes.

Still Few Details

Microsoft representatives are tight-lipped about the update to the operating system. They have said they plan to ship Millennium next year. Microsoft expects to release a Millennium beta 2 to testers by the end of this year.

And it does provide users with some added functionality. While specifics of Millennium are not being disclosed publicly at this time, product managers offer some generalities.

The development team is focusing its efforts on digital media, online services, and home networking, says David Ursino, product manager for Microsoft's consumer Windows division.

In the digital media and entertainment arena, Millennium will let you organise MP3s, share Internet connections, and share images online, Ursino says. It offers a Windows utility to help you connect to hardware and software partners to get technical assistance.

The operating system upgrade may have some new functionality, Gartenberg says. He expects Internet sharing for multiple home and office PCs should only be somewhat improved.

While Microsoft is touting its new release as a consumer operating system, the fact remains that small offices typically use Windows 9x over NT.

Not So Fast

Microsoft recommends that when Millennium hits the streets, users run it on new hardware. For his part, Gartenberg suggests waiting until you've got a new PC preinstalled with Millennium rather than retrofitting your current model.

That also means small businesses still running Windows 95 or 98 should stick with their current operating systems, for the time being.

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