Do us a favour Microsoft

Do us a favour Microsoft

Did anyone really think that the ride to NT 5.0 was going to be a smooth one? That it was going to arrive on time? That it would not be bloated? That all the features originally promised would be there, working exactly as they should? History tells us that it was never going to happen.

Microsoft's last major operating system rewrite was Windows 95. It hardly went off without a hitch. Late and fat, with what many considered to be below-par robustness and multitasking capabilities, it convinced many business users to make NT their standard desktop operating system environment.

But this is not just a Microsoft phenomenon. Operating system rewrites are tough. When you are making the types of promises that Microsoft has about NT 5.0 you are talking about an incredible coding assignment.

Sun and Novell have operating systems that today are undeniably robust and reliable. But both of them screwed up monumentally with their last major operating system rewrites. You can trace Novell's misfortunes back to its inability to get users to upgrade from NetWare 3.x to 4.x. The problem was that for a long time NetWare 4.0 was a dog. When Sun moved to Solaris at its first attempt at a 32-bit Unix platform, it was just as painful.

Now, we learn, in this week's front page exclusive report, that Microsoft is telling its developers to hose down expectations for NT 5.0 Microsoft's biggest problem with operating system rewrites is that they promise the world, as they have done with NT 5.0.

Doubt and uncertainty

It works well for Microsoft because it plants enough doubt and uncertainty into users' minds that they often decide not to go with the latest version of NetWare or Mac OS, as examples. Instead they decide to wait for Microsoft's forthcoming release. And they wait, and they wait, and they wait.

When it finally arrives, users probably have unrealistically high expectations. But that is understandable because they have gone without functionality they could have had for years if they had just upgraded their original platforms in the first place.

And so it will be with NT 5.0. I applaud Microsoft for being open with its developers and integrators, at this stage of the game, because as always it's going to be you that takes the heat when users' unrealistic expectations aren't met. It will never do the IT manager any good getting stuck into Microsoft.

It knows it's too big to care. It's much easier to blame, or even fire, the reseller or integrator for all the problems and downtime moving to NT 5.0 has caused.

Of course, there is the possibility that Microsoft will pull NT 5.0 off without a hitch. But as a betting man, I don't like the odds. The thing to remember, now more than ever, is that there are absolutely fantastic alternatives on the market.

Integrators who have beta-tested NetWare 5.0 have given the product the thumbs up already and the various flavours of Unix have never been more stable and feature-rich.

And let's not forget the open source code movement, which is rapidly gaining steam. Solutions that work, and which you get paid for, today.

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