Windows NT is rapidly expanding in many directions - the server, networking and, of course, the Internet. Jim Allchin, senior vice president of Microsoft's personal business and systems group, recently discussed the many faces of Windows with IDG's Michael Vizard, Bob Trott, Cara Cunningham, and Matthew Woollacott.
IDG: There's some discussion about seeing new network services, but what are they specifically going to be?
Allchin: I guess you have to look at it from the end-user side and the admin side. From the end-user side, the idea is being able to see maps of where people are located and use a central repository for that. From the end-user standpoint I think the sky's the limit in knowing what a directory is. It's just a repository, a storage location for directions.
IDG: If the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] picks one of the other proposals for replication as the official extension to LDAP [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol], will Microsoft continue with its own technology or go with the official version?
Allchin: We will follow standards. We're also not going to wait. We have a very protocol-agnostic perspective . . . if there's a way to replicate to another system and it becomes standard, then we'll add it to the system. I am not terribly interested in supporting some obtuse standard . . . We'll make the decision later. It's not that I'm in love with LDAP. I think LDAP is a terrible protocol. It really is.
IDG: Customers are really sensitive about upgrades these days. The lowest level issue is, can I upgrade from Windows 3.1 directly to NT 5.0? And with NT 5.0 coming down the pike and all of these services integrated into the operating system essentially, what's the compelling argument for going to NT 4.0 today vs just waiting for NT 5.0?
Allchin: I love NT 4.0. I think it is the most solid system available. I have talked with many corporations that are just installing it as fast as they can because they want to get to it. I will commit that the migrations, not just on the desktop side, will be absolutely seamless from 4.0 to 5.0, every step of the way. First, we do a pretty good job, and second, if we stub our toe we learn pretty quickly how to improve it.
On the server side, I still think NT 4.0, particularly with all of the feature sets that we're adding with the stuff that you can download through the Web free, puts you on the path for 5.0. For example, we have migration tools to take you from Banyan [Systems] and other things from Novell so that you can start today. No, we didn't produce an upgrade for Windows 95 to NT 4.0. The reason why is that I felt very concerned about the quality that we can upgrade most systems and it's not like we didn't have the code there - we did. But a bad experience would really damage NT's reputation. I'd rather give up on part of the market than have that damage take place.
IDG: Could you tell us the rationale behind creating the Small Business Server [due later this quarter]?
Allchin: Because there are a lot of things that we can simplify if we put some constraints on the environment.
IDG: Will a model emerge for renting software online?
Allchin: I don't know. I'm not thinking about it. There will be distribution capabilities and maybe companies will decide that they want to offer services like that, but it's not the intent of anything that my group and the Windows area are doing . . . I actually think other companies may do it long before we do it; [companies] that are doing third-party software, because the infrastructure we'll put in place will be there, and ISPs could probably make quite a business of keeping people's machines up to snuff until we make them a lot more intelligent so they do it themselves.