Microsoft late last week started shipping its Windows 2000 product to OEM distributors, three weeks before its official February 17 launch date.
According to Paul Roworth, product marketing manager for Windows 2000, this strategy will ensure that the OS is available from day one.
Yet a source at one PC maker who asked not to be identified said the software giant's desire to see sales of the much-delayed operating system ramp up quickly is behind this unusual tactic.
`[Microsoft's] biggest priority right now is to get as much market penetration as possible as early as possible,' the source said.
Rowarth put a more positive spin on it. `This is really just a fulfilment issue. It gets it into the channel on time rather than if we waited till the official launch date which would mean product would only start to appear three weeks later.'
Rowarth said most manufacturers received the final Windows 2000 code when it was released to manufacturing in December, giving them time to prepare. `It simply means that the manufactures can make sure that everything works properly. In the past we have given them beta software. This is just supplying them with the release product to do the final testing.'
In December, Compaq announced its iPaq systems would ship with Windows 2000 from January 24. Compaq confirmed that several other systems, including desktops, laptops and servers, would ship before February 17. A source close to IBM said several Windows 2000 product lines, including ThinkPad 600 notebooks and PC 300 and IntelliStation desktops, also started shipping on January 24.
However, it is only OEM distributors and OEM partners that will have this leeway, with Windows 2000 not available on retail shelves until February 18, according to Roworth.
The early release is restricted to matters of supply and testing and does not encompass marketing issues, Roworth added.
`February 17 is the official launch date. We don't really want the manufacturers to promote Windows 2000 before then.