I have a confession to make, I used Windows Millennium Edition and I liked it. That doesn’t stop me making fun of it however.
At a time where there was still a separation between consumer and enterprise operating systems, Windows Me was at the top of its class.
What a lot of people forget or don’t even recognize to begin with is that Windows Me is actually a rather innovative and forward-looking operating system. Instead, almost everyone focuses on its reliability problems which can be largely attributed to the flaky and inherently unstable Win9x kernel.
With the help of Wikipedia, here’s a short list of the most notable features that were introduced or improved in Windows Me. See how many of these have provided some benefit to you in the past. For me, many of these are fundamental to my Windows experience.
- Windows Movie Maker (new) – allows basic editing of home videos. (However to this date, still highly unstable.)
- System Restore (new) -allows the restore of system files, drivers and the registry to a previous known state to recover from a system failure. Might not work all the time, but a huge leap from the format and install approach to troubleshooting.
- System File Protection (improved) – monitors and restores undesired changes to important Windows system files. Might be a hassle for advanced users, but gives some protection over malicious damage of system files.
- New TCP/IP Stack (improved) – adds ability to sense whether adapters are connected to a network, improved performance and reliability and home networking features.
- Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) (new) – adds the ability for the computer to request ports autonomously to the router. (An inherent security problem, but simplifies home networking in many scenarios.)
- Windows Image Acquisition (WIA) (new) – a standardized framework for imaging devices (cameras, webcams, scanners) to communicate with Windows. Before this, device vendors had to write a custom solution on their own leading to many compatibility problems.
- Automatic Updates (new) – allows for download and installations of Windows Updates directly in Windows. Before, users had to manually check the website.
- Inbuilt ZIP support (improved) – allows the creation and extraction of ZIP folders natively in Windows.
- Image preview (new) – inbuilt picture viewer for many of the popular photo and image formats.
- Bundled games (improved) – Pinball and Spider Solitaire. Nuff said.
- USB Mass Storage generic driver (new) – the first consumer Windows OS to support any USB mass storage device without third-party drivers. Before, you had to install a custom driver from a floppy to use any USB drive.
Could you imagine the security problems if Windows XP didn’t ship with Automatic Updates? Or if WIA was never introduced – how difficult it was to install a scanner in Windows 98? What about having to download a third-party utility to view a JPG? Or not having to plug in a USB drive and just have it work.
In spite of this and more, people continue to draw comparisons between Windows Vista and Windows Me as if it were as hip as writing Microsoft with a dollar sign in the late 90s.
I don’t think this is fair at all. If anything, it means Vista has a bunch of new and improved features that we won’t realize the full potential of till a couple more Windows releases down the road. But that doesn’t mean it’s destined to a be a ‘failure’.
What’s more, Windows 98 Second Edition was released on May 5, 1999 and Windows XP on October 25, 2001. Between the two, Windows Me was released on September 14, 2000, giving it the shortest Windows lifespan of only 406 days. Taking into account consumer purchasing life-cycles and other factors, what’s left is only a couple of days of fame. Any product preceded and superseded that quickly would have suffered the same fate.