Looking to provide the salve for year-2000 problems, IBM later this month will launch a Web site clearinghouse that includes free software and analysis tools to fix a variety of year-2000 problems on IBM PCs dating as far back as the early 1980s.
The company's PC Systems Year 2000 "Road Map" Web site offers users with systems as old as those with a PC AT bus, a series of diagnostic tools and access to the software needed to get their PCs ready for the year-2000 environment.
"We have engineered this site so customers can follow an easy-to-understand step-by-step process on how to inventory, assess, fix, replace, and test desktop systems," said one IBM insider.
At the site, users will be able to download free of charge IBM's Year 2000 Evaluation Tool, which checks the overall fitness of their machines for the year 2000.
For instance, the tool can assess how the hardware clock and BIOS will respond to the year-2000 transition.
Users who need instructions on downloading and executing a program can click on the Download Instructions URL. Downloading the tool creates a self-booting diskette that works only by booting to the diskette that is created.
Users can download for free the IBM Year 2000 Device Driver and BIOS updates for all IBM machines with the PC AT bus and later.
Analysts briefed on the new site have credited IBM with doing a better job than most at catering to the nontechnical for doing one-stop shopping for basic information and the necessary diagnostic tools. They have added, however, that those more technically aware can gain most of the same services on competitors' sites, such as those of Compaq and Dell.
"There's nothing here that isn't available from IBM's competition, but what IBM has done is developed a little bit easier approach for the non-tech savvy," said Kevin Knox, a research analyst at the Gartner Group's End User Computing group. "They've made it easier to identify what the problems are and where the exposures are."
Some observers said IBM and its competitors should provide year-2000 support for multiple vendors' products, or at least offer a referral service where users can get the appropriate fixes for mixed shops.
"There are very few shops, large or small, that have just IBM equipment," said Bill Ablondi, an analyst at Market Maps.