Early code shipped for friendlier, family Windows
(CNN) - Some 5,000 of Microsoft's hardware, software and equipment partners got their first peek Monday at early programming code for the next home version of the company's Windows operating system.
The new version, code-named Millennium and due out next year, is being designed to make it easier for home users to download and manipulate digital music and photos, set up a home network, use "intelligent" appliances and access the Internet.
"The question is how do we make the online experience for the family the best it can possibly be?" said Shawn Sanford, group product manager for Microsoft's Consumer Windows Division.
"The goal of the division is just to simplify the home computing experience."
If Millennium does integrate audio and video tools, it will directly compete with RealNetworks, which publishes the most popular applications for receiving audio and video data on the Web.
Sanford revealed few of Millennium's details, in part, he said, because so much remains up in the air.
The Millennium OS will be an enhancement of the Windows 98 OS. It will not include separate applications bundled with Windows, as Internet Explorer was when that browser application went head-to-head with Netscape Communicator.
One focus of Millennium's developers is to reduce the number of steps necessary to use multimedia, Sanford said.
"I can view pictures today within Windows. I can play music today within Windows. That process today is not that easy," he said. "How can we make that easier for users? With enhancing the existing technologies, we can make those simpler for the user to take advantage of."
This early version of Millennium also was written with an eye toward enhancing parents' ability to limit their children's Internet access to age-appropriate content.
The code release is only a developer preview - it is not even a beta version of Millennium and is unavailable to the public at the usual beta code posting sites on the Internet, Sanford said.
The code was sent Friday to equipment manufacturers and to Microsoft's hardware and software partners, in order to get their ideas and feedback early in the development process.
Sanford couldn't say when the beta version of Millennium would be released because that timing will depend upon developer feedback.
Improved networking is a goal
The time for easier networking options is nigh because 75 percent of those with home computers have more than one PC, Sanford said. The process of linking computers should be easier, he said, and Millennium will provide a solution.
Millennium is the first product from the Consumer Windows Group, an outgrowth of Microsoft's reorganization earlier this year. The group is committed to a principle called "It Just Works," meaning that PCs and their applications should be as reliable and dependable as other home appliances such as the telephone, said division vice president David Cole.
The Consumer Windows Group is separate from the group working on Windows 2000, the long-delayed successor to the Windows NT operating system tailored for businesses.
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