Microsoft's enterprise customers will have the first commercial version of Windows 2000 by mid-January, but the operating system won't be stocked on retail store shelves and factory-installed on PCs in the mail rooms of integrators until February 17, Microsoft has said.
`We are putting a stake in the ground,' said Keith White, director of Microsoft's business and enterprise division. Enterprise customers will receive code about two weeks after the `gold' Windows 2000 code is shipped to manufacturing at year's end. The retail shipping date, six weeks into the year, leaves Microsoft time to not only produce the CDs in their full retail packaging, but to also acknowledge the reality that very few information technology customers will pay attention to new products until year 2000 tension has died down.
`This could be the worst time ever to release a software product,' said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Massachusetts-based Giga Information Group. After it became clear to users that Windows 2000 wouldn't ship before August, the operating system was doomed to not see widespread rollouts until the second half of next year because of year 2000 concerns, he said.
Reuters in California, for example, has frozen new technology deployments for Y2K reasons, both in its internal operations and in the software systems the company provides its customers of financial market data, said senior software adviser David Hamilton. After the new year, the company can begin testing the operating system, which Hamilton said looks promising to engineers, even though some assumptions about its reliability still have to be checked.
Windows 2000 has been a long time coming. Beta testing began in September 1997, and the operating system will have gone through six beta versions when Release Candidate 3 (RC3) is shipped to select users next month. White said RC3 will be the code that Microsoft ships, unless beta testers find `showstoppers'.
Microsoft also announced the availability of Service Pack 6 for Windows NT 4.0. Microsoft said the patch isn't essential and users should review the documentation before deciding to deploy it.
The patch includes year 2000-related fixes, but none affects the core operations of the software, which Microsoft maintains is compliant. Service Pack 6 can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ servicepacks.