Windows Millennium beta ships

Microsoft Millennium -- the successor to Windows 95 and 98 -- is keeping a low profile with only a select group of testers receiving the debut beta on CD yesterday. Neither the public nor the press will get a peek, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

There's little visible difference, Microsoft representatives note. Microsoft changed its earlier plans to revise the Windows interface with this update to the consumer edition. The interface will have some new elements and provide some home networking and digital media, but it will look much like the current version.

The final release of Millennium -- the code name for the consumer version of Windows -- is expected to ship sometime "in the year 2000", according to Microsoft representatives. At this point, that is about as specific as officials are willing to get.

Microsoft doesn't want any customer misconceptions to arise, which might happen if the company releases a beta version of the software too early, says Bob Visse, product manager for Windows 2000 (previously Windows NT). Many times, test features in a beta may not make it to the final version for one reason or another, Visse says.

"There are several reasons why a beta will not go public," he says. "There may be a strategic direction or new features that haven't been tested."

But customer satisfaction is the main issue at hand.

"It's a disservice to the customer to release a beta publicly -- it makes sense to keep these ideas internal," Visse says. "You don't bring out a steak half done."

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