The slow moving train that is the Windows 2000 (Win2K) beta program continues to roll on with the latest release of Release Candidate 2 (RC2). Win2K's schedule has slipped a minimum of 3 weeks, and as a result, it's uncertain whether Microsoft can meet its goal of releasing Win2K before year’s end. Microsoft announced the availability of RC2 at Developer Days '99 on September 15 and made the product available for download from its Web site for beta testers. Microsoft released RC2 to manufacturing (RTM) and said it would have the CD-ROMs in the hands of developers, the press, and other interested parties within the week. Speculating on Win2K's ultimate release date has taken on the aura of a TV game show in the trade press. Nearly everyone has a favorite date, and everyone asks everyone else what his or her best guess is. Microsoft apparently has one more release candidate (RC3) in the works before the official product release. According to Microsoft's current internal schedule, the company will release RC3 on October 27 and release the RTM for the shipping product on November 17. So, if you take Microsoft at its word, then a Comdex party is still on—but don’t bet the farm on this one folks. I think the Boston Red Sox have a better chance of winning the World Series than Win2K does of shipping on November 17. One informed source speculates that Microsoft will ship Win2K in February 2000—my current best guess is that the company will ship the OS at the end of January 2000. The real question is this: Why doesn’t Microsoft post accurate dates and end the speculation? The official line is that customer input dictates the release schedule, which is a reasonable stance. Unofficially, if Microsoft misses its end-of-year shipping date for this OS, it doesn’t get to book the first wave of sales in its fourth quarter 1999 earnings. Additionally, Microsoft freezes the market by being vague about its true delivery date. Microsoft has posted a list of changes in RC2 since beta 3 on its Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/server/beta/askdev/99Sep15.asp. Some of these changes are significant. Microsoft has removed Component Load Balancing from Win2K Advanced Server (AS). Component Load Balancing is an application that spreads the work of COM+ applications over two or more servers and enhances clustering and enterprise applications. Note that Microsoft has not removed clustering from Win2K AS, only one aspect of clustering that is most commonly used in Web site development. On September 13 in San Francisco, Microsoft announced a new product called AppServer for managing enterprise Web applications. Microsoft plans to post a story on this announcement and its eBusiness architecture strategy on its Web site on September 24—stay tuned as I'll provide complete AppServer coverage on Monday. In addition to bug fixes, RC2 will include several changes: Better Hardware Support. The new version will offer improved Plug and Play (PnP) functionality, more printer drivers, and support for the HP OfficeJet series. Microsoft will also improve application compatibility. Simplified Administration. Microsoft has added better support for setting up and configuring Internet connections. This support includes a new RRAS setup wizard and improvements to DNS, dialog boxes, messages, and the Start menu. Management Tool Changes. Microsoft has improved the Event Viewer, Active Directory (AD) users and computers, AD domains and trusts, security policies, computer management, Performance Monitor, DHCP, DNS, WINS, and routing and remote access tools. Domain Migration. RC2 includes a significant change to the procure for using the DCPROMO program that promotes standalone servers to domain controllers. Windows Media Services. Microsoft has added Windows Media Services to RC2. Security Additions. Microsoft has added 30 new international Certificate Authorities (CAs) to the latest version of the OS. The trade press has reported that Microsoft has two problems in Win2K that the company is trying to address. The first is synchronization between AD and other LDAP directories. The second is its implementation of the Kerberos ticket with Microsoft-specific information that makes it impossible for Win2K Kerberos servers to transparently validate services with UNIX servers in a heterogeneous network. Microsoft has approached two outside companies to help it resolve these problems (the first problem resulted in Microsoft's purchase of Zoomit some weeks back). So if you're in the band waiting at the station for the Win2K train to arrive, bring your winter coat and bundle up.