New Windows system goes on sale


REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft Corp. started selling the new Windows operating system for consumers yesterday, giving the world's largest software maker a new product for home computer users in time for the holiday shopping season.

Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me, is available in stores and will be included in new machines from personal computer makers including Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft said.

The new operating system replaces Windows 98. It is a temporary upgrade until Microsoft releases a more ambitious system for consumers next year, code-named Whistler, analysts said.

"It's coming out in time for the Christmas season, so they'll certainly sell a bunch, but most consumers will wait until next year to upgrade," said Michael Silver, research director at Gartner Group Inc., a technology research company. Though Windows Me offers more Internet and multimedia features, the system is not much different from Windows 98, Silver said.

When it is introduced, Whistler will represent a major overhaul, as the company switches to basing its consumer operating systems on the programming code for Windows 2000, which has been used exclusively to run business computers. Microsoft is charging Windows 98 users $59.95 to upgrade. First-time buyers will pay $209, and those upgrading from Windows 95 will pay $89 for Windows Me.

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