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Alternative timeline: A better Windows ME


xanthrou
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What if Bill Gates put you and your development team at Microsoft at charge of Windows ME's development?

Would you make sure not to rush Windows ME's development and keep adding new features that would lay the foundation of NT-based Windows XP?

Or just give up with ME and keep developing NT-based Neptune by merging 9X and NT kernels, eventuality making an operating system very similar to XP?

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They should have just called it another special edition of Win98 (which it was, under the hood), made it a free service pack for existing Win98 users, and saved all the marketing money and public embarrassment, then put out XP when it was ready.

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If I would have never started the ME project. Gone full NT directly. ME was a total flop and waste of resources.

Even Win98 would probably have been canceled by me, and I was never a user of or fan of even Win95. Even if I can see the sales point from Microsoft of Win95, I personally used NT 3.51 (and OS/2 and FreeBSD) at that time, and no need for me at the time to go to a technically worse system.

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I've heard ME stood for "Major Error." 😝 

Microsoft has a long history of creating new looks & features for Windows which keeps the industry having to redo software, keep retraining the users and keeping tech support people busy. Imaging all the time saved if they just got it right the first time.

I'd debate that sums up most of the industry. Had everyone just stuck with 8 bits we're all be in a much better state. 

I would have just politely not taken the job. Not sure if that would be foresight or hindsight.  I'd hold out to lead the Encarta team

PS - Then above option is for amusement only. Any other interpretation is strictly forbidden. 

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ME was released when they thought that the big plans they had for XP (then 'Longhorn') would take too long to bring to market, and they needed a stopgap version. But then XP came out the very next year after they scrapped a lot of their more ambitious ideas.

Then they proceeded to sell XP for six years while working on Vista.

So I would never have made ME in the first place.

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I'll just go on record saying that ME wasn't as bad as people remember it. That does not mean it was great, but as someone else already said, Win98 Third Edition / service pack would have been a better idea.

The biggest problem with ME was trying to be all things to all people. Trying to allow legacy drivers to still work in a new driver model I think was their biggest mistake. That led to more instability than anything. The problem was largely legacy drivers that didn't do things right, and their decision to allow it.

Still, I'm sure they made money on ME. Maybe not much or any from business or upgrades, but a lot of computers wound up being sold that year with an ME license attached. It did what they wanted by keeping the cash flowing until they could get XP out the door.

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Posted (edited)

I would honestly hesitate to remove real DOS mode, which has caused instabillity, as well as creating compatibility issues. 

I would also bring the Watercolor (or Watercolour; specifically the 2419 one) and Mallard/Sample Test Visual Style from Whistler. In addition, it would be nice to add the firewall, Activity Center, Fast Boot and the login screen from Neptune, add some notification system from PocketPC 2000, plus having quite a few of Plus! features (95, Kids and 98) built-in, finalising with adding Flight Simulator (moreover: Space and Train Simulators too), the entire Microsoft Entertainment Pack and perhaps an exclusive game for Windows ME as preincluded games for the OS. Security from Windows 2000 is also important, so I would make sure that would be added.

Edited by xanthrou
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I would not merge NT and Win95 lines. I would try to maintaint both lines, so WinXP, Win7 and others would go its own known way, and Winows ME would evolve in next version of Win98. With real DOS mode. Without need to create a User account. With simlicity in every aspect. I know I would face many challenges with security issues, but what the heck. Pursuing the dream never was an easy task.

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On 1/7/2022 at 10:48 AM, Cyber said:

I would not merge NT and Win95 lines. I would try to maintaint both lines, so WinXP, Win7 and others would go its own known way, and Winows ME would evolve in next version of Win98. With real DOS mode. Without need to create a User account. With simlicity in every aspect. I know I would face many challenges with security issues, but what the heck. Pursuing the dream never was an easy task.

Isn't that basically what happened? The timeline was just a bit compressed.

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On 1/7/2022 at 6:17 PM, SlithyMatt said:

Isn't that basically what happened? The timeline was just a bit compressed.

And in the end ME was buggy and was dropped. I would try to make this not happen. I would love to have nowdays a modern and stable version of Win95-Win98-WinME line.

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On 1/5/2022 at 9:24 PM, xanthrou said:

What if Bill Gates put you and your development team at Microsoft at charge of Windows ME's development?

Would you make sure not to rush Windows ME's development and keep adding new features that would lay the foundation of NT-based Windows XP?

Or just give up with ME and keep developing NT-based Neptune by merging 9X and NT kernels, eventuality making an operating system very similar to XP?

To be clear and honest; the kernels never "merged". It never happend that way. 

They just implemented an improved version of Direct X  and PnP, and added more APIs and more drivers to the NT system.

 

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On 1/8/2022 at 3:41 AM, martinot said:

To be clear and honest; the kernels never "merged". It never happend that way. 

They just implemented an improved version of Direct X  and PnP, and added more APIs and more drivers to the NT system.

 

I'm not really an expert in question, but I remember I read somewhere, that there were two lines:
- Win95-Win98-WinME line, which originally was targeted to single user home use;
- WinNT-Win2000 line, multi-user system, intended for groups like corp offices, student classes, etc.

WinXP-Win7-Win8-Win10-Win11 is considered to be the new single "merged" line, because it merges these two lines in one.

And though they might did not merged kernels literally , they modified Win2000, adding features from Win95-Win98-WinME line, to make it better suit for home consumer needs. For the end users of both lines it was definitely a merge, because since then WinXP was used everywhere.

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On 1/8/2022 at 12:20 AM, Cyber said:

For the end users of both lines it was definitely a merge, because since then WinXP was used everywhere.

The merger was more marketing than anything. The reality is the Win95/98/Me line was discontinued, and Microsoft made a home user priced license for the next NT version, which was XP. NT 4.0 had reimplemented the Win95 desktop manager, but that was really a superficial similarity, just like how NT 3.51 looked like Windows 3.11, but were completely different behind that desktop. The replacement of Me with XP in the home market was effectively the death of MS-DOS and Microsoft focused on a single Kernal (NT) with configurations for different use cases (home/small business user, enterprise desktop client, server).

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At first, I hated not having a DOS backbone sitting under Windows, I really liked DOS and didn't want to give it up, even though I liked Windows. I got over it of course, but I was not happy about it at the time.

Old dog, new tricks, you get the idea. It sucks to watch things you grew up on, used for many years, slowly go obsolete before your eyes. 🙂

Edited by Strider
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On 1/8/2022 at 12:46 AM, Strider said:

At first, I hated not having a DOS backbone sitting under Windows, I really liked DOS and didn't want to give it up, even though I liked Windows. I got over it of course, but I was not happy about it at the time.

Old dog, new tricks, you get the idea. It sucks to watch things you grew up on, used for many years, slowly go obsolete before your eyes. 🙂

As a gamer, I had to give up a lot of software to use XP full time. I did end up running  a dual boot system for a while, but I eventually just decided to let the old software go... 

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On 1/8/2022 at 6:20 AM, Cyber said:

I'm not really an expert in question, but I remember I read somewhere, that there were two lines:
- Win95-Win98-WinME line, which originally was targeted to single user home use;
- WinNT-Win2000 line, multi-user system, intended for groups like corp offices, student classes, etc.

WinXP-Win7-Win8-Win10-Win11 is considered to be the new single "merged" line, because it merges these two lines in one.

And though they might did not merged kernels literally , they modified Win2000, adding features from Win95-Win98-WinME line, to make it better suit for home consumer needs. For the end users of both lines it was definitely a merge, because since then WinXP was used everywhere.

Yes, that was what I said; they did not merge the kernerls in any way, shape or form. I also commented, and agree with you, that the extended the APIs of the NT-line of systems with things to better support home users; better PnP (easier to add new hardware), better and fuller DirectX-implementation (important for games), etc. That was exactly what happened.

I can not see how it even woud be tecnically or practically possible to merge such different kernels, even if someone at Microsoft would have thought that would have been a good idea (which I do not think).

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On 1/8/2022 at 9:46 AM, Strider said:

At first, I hated not having a DOS backbone sitting under Windows, I really liked DOS and didn't want to give it up, even though I liked Windows. I got over it of course, but I was not happy about it at the time.

Old dog, new tricks, you get the idea. It sucks to watch things you grew up on, used for many years, slowly go obsolete before your eyes. 🙂

I liked and used Windows from start. Started with Windows 1.01, 2.0, 2.11 etc. before it generally took of in the market with 3.0 and 3.1. That said it was never any good OS or foundation with DOS in the bottom. It was co-operative mutitasking (each application had to work 100% and voluntary give up with CPU with a message passing scheme), and no memory protection (a bad pointer in just one application could corrupt any part of memory, and bring the whole system down).

Eventually I got tired of all the crashes in DOS/Win, that I moved to OS/2 and (after using Unix at school) FreeBSD. They where much more stable OS (except that OS/2 desktop WPS was quite buggy, and OS/2 could also get unresponsive to input through the SIQ, the single input message que). The problem with me running OS/2 and FreeBSD was lack of software. Later OS/2 could run some Win 3.0-applications, but the compatibility where never perfect.  

I was so happy when Microsoft announced that they woud ditch the old DOS/Win line, and introduce a new OS/2 3.0 aka OS/2 NT, and later (after officially breaking up the co-operation with IBM) Windows NT (they changed the desktop and user interface from OS/2 style to Win3-style).

It was quite unfinsihed and slow when I started to beta test NT 3.1 (or if it was even before pre-beta versions) as I got an early access to that from Microsoft. It was quite memory heavy in the first release of Windows NT 3.1 version, but got very good in Windows NT 3.5 version in 1994. When Win95 got released in 1995 I saw no idea to run that as my main OS. I did install it for dual boot (just like I had with DOS previously), but just purely for running some games. With NT 3.51 in late 1995 it got even better (and full support for running the additional APIs that Win95 had extended the Win32 API with). Now I could run Word, Excel, Photoshop, etc. in pure 32-bit versions on a stable working system. Great stuff! 😀

 

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On 1/8/2022 at 2:53 AM, TomXP411 said:

As a gamer, I had to give up a lot of software to use XP full time. I did end up running  a dual boot system for a while, but I eventually just decided to let the old software go... 

That was pretty much my case, and for a while I solved it the same way, dual boot. Eventually I built myself 2 different systems, my XP rig, and a maxed out Windows 95 OSR2.5/DOS rig using era appropriate hardware. I had that second rig running well into the Windows 7 days. I eventually parted it out and just went full emulation using DOSBox.

@martinot My first Windows was 2.11, but I rarely used it. I used and liked Norton Commander. By the time Windows 3.1 was released, I started using it a lot more. Windows 95 I loved. I didn't initially view Windows as an OS, just a piece of software like anything else, a fancy file navigator. It wasn't until Win 95 that I really started to see it for what it was, and the power it had.

I have very little issues with stability on my DOS/Win systems, thus I never had a reason to move off it. So while I messed around with OS/2, I never ran it myself. I played a lot of games, and everything I used was designed for DOS/Windows, was easier to find, that's where all the support was, and I got good and getting them to run and do what I wanted. So I just stuck with it. I wish I had had messed with it more in retrospect, but like I said, I was happy with DOS/Win so the need never arose.

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On 1/5/2022 at 11:05 PM, SlithyMatt said:

They should have just called it another special edition of Win98 (which it was, under the hood), made it a free service pack for existing Win98 users, and saved all the marketing money and public embarrassment, then put out XP when it was ready.

Perhaps 'Windows 98 Millennium Edition'.

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On 1/8/2022 at 8:53 AM, TomXP411 said:

As a gamer, I had to give up a lot of software to use XP full time. I did end up running  a dual boot system for a while, but I eventually just decided to let the old software go... 

I set up a dual-boot PC for a friend, 98 for gaming and XP for productivity. 98 was stripped down with 98Lite and XP was trimmed a little with XPLite plus the pagefile and a few services disabled. Never had any calls requesting support. The PC was stolen a few years later but my friend still remembers it fondly.

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