WinInfo 2000: The Year In Review (Part One)

New Years is generally a time of reflection, with promises to right the wrongs of the previous year and learn from the mistakes of the past. If true, we've got a lot of work to do: I've been following the computer industry for over a decade now, and 2000 was easily the most tumultuous year we've had in a while. The Dot Com stocks came crashing back to reality, Microsoft was found guilty, guilty, guilty while losing more than half of its value, and Apple Computer found that even the man behind the curtain wasn't enough when the products you sell are simply tired retreads of what came before. But WinInfo Daily UPDATE readers know all this and more, as 2000 was a year of exclusive revelations unprecedented in the newsletter's history. Let's take a look back at 2000, the good, the bad, and the ugly...

January 2000 started off on an ominous note for Microsoft when it was revealed that Linux advocate Michael Chaney had paid Hotmail's domain registration fee in an effort to keep Microsoft's free Web email service running; Microsoft refunded the $35 to Chaney and thanked him via phone. Apple Computer opened MacWorld with its Mac OS X announcement; the new OS was due to ship later that year, while Steve Jobs dropped the "interim" moniker and became Apple's permanent CEO. On the Wintel front, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates headlined the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and unveiled the new PocketPC (nee Windows CE) and MovieMaker, which was later included in Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me). Microsoft settled its lawsuit with Caldera, dating back to the DR-DOS days, for a paltry sum. AOL announced its merger with Time Warner, though it still hasn't happened a year later; I'll never forget the goofy pictures of the usually taciturn AOL CEO Steve Case, excitedly hugging anyone within arms reach. Linux got its first big boost in 2000 when IBM announced that it would make the open source solution the center of its hardware strategy going forward. Microsoft began a year of legal defeats when the Supreme Court ruled that temporary workers who had been at the company for years could participate in a class action lawsuit against the company; the so-called "permatemps" later won a hefty settlement from the software giant. USA Today reported that the US government would seek to break up Microsoft if the company was later found guilty of antitrust violations; they did, and it was. However, Bill Gates reported that he didn't expect that to happen. But Gates was smart enough to remove himself from the day-to-day business decisions of Microsoft, appointing president Steve Ballmer as CEO and demoting himself to "Chief Software Architect." Microsoft also lost big with Sun's Java lawsuit, which was upheld by a federal judge. Microsoft and the federal government fielded dueling proposed conclusions of law in the company's antitrust lawsuit, making for some good reading. Transmeta unveiled its secretive Crusoe processor, causing much sensation; twelve months later, no one cares. Though it wasn't supposed to ship until late February, Windows 2000 began appearing in new PCs in January, and the company issued its first security patch for the new OS a full three weeks before it was released. In early 2000, the hottest laptops were running 600 MHz Pentium III chips, a full 100 MHz faster than the previous versions; these were the first to feature Intel's SpeedStep technology. On the low end of the desktop, Intel introduced a 533 MHz Celeron chip.

WinInfo exclusives from January: Microsoft merged its "Odyssey" and "Neptune" projects into "Whistler," the next version of Windows; Microsoft later confirmed this report and began using the name Whistler publicly. Microsoft began testing Office 2000 SR-1, which was originally supposed to support Hotmail access from Outlook; this feature was later dropped and won't see the light of day until Office 2002 ships in May 2001. MSN "Mars" (MSN Explorer) was delayed; I correctly predicted that Mars would "enable HTML user interfaces in future versions of Windows": And that's exactly what Microsoft said it would do when it unveiled its .NET strategy six months later.

In February, Microsoft confirmed that "Windows Millennium," the final version in the Windows 9x product line, would be called Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me, when it shipped later that year. Microsoft began work on Small Business Server 2000, which was based on Windows 2000; at this time, the product still hasn't shipped. Intel began showing off Pentium III designs running at 1000 MHz, or 1 GHz, while Motorola's PowerPC struggled along at 400 to 500 MHz, hobbling Apple in the public's eye; we know there's more to PC speed than MHz, but the PowerPC never really got out of first gear in 2000, no matter how you look at it. And no, people, a 500 MHz PowerPC is not as fast as a 1 GHz Pentium III. Corel and Inprise/Borland announced their planned merger; the so-called "Linux powerhouse" never came to be when frightened Inprise shareholders got a good look at Corel's financials. ZDNN's Mary Jo Foley reported that Whistler would ship in 2001, which we knew, but that it would also be followed up by a major release called "Blackcomb" in 2002; we now know that Blackcomb won't ship until 2002 at the earliest. Windows 2000 shipped February 17th with a lame launch event in San Francisco and some interesting anti-piracy measures, such as a hologram-coated CD-ROM. The European Union announced that it would investigate Microsoft; the company said it would cooperate. Microsoft responded to a questionable report that stated there were "63,000 bugs in Windows 2000;" this was never true, but you can still read all about this Internet myth on Linux sites around the world. Microsoft announced that the 64-bit version of Windows 2000, called Windows 2000/64, would ship later that year; the company later abandoned that idea in lieu of Whistler/64, which will supposedly ship late in 2001. Microsoft reported that its upcoming SQL Server 2000 product had trounced the previous tpmC benchmark record, but its victory was shortlived. After failing to settle its antitrust case, Microsoft found itself the target of some harsh words from Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who compared the company to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the federal government in 1911. Microsoft apologized for describing Bangkok, Thailand as a "commercial sex hub" in its Encarta 2000 Deluxe CD-based encyclopedia. The headline of the year comes from February as well: "Is that a PC in your pocket, or are you just happy to CE?" I don't like to laugh at my own jokes, but that one still gets me. Veteran Mac writer Don Crabb passed away, and he's still missed.

On a somewhat personal note, WinInfo and the SuperSite for Windows joined the Windows 2000 Magazine family in February and I took on the role of News Editor for the publication. As I wrote in February, this change marked the beginning of some exciting (and yes, scary) changes for WinInfo, which began its life as a casual email-based news update between friends in Phoenix, Arizona in 1995. Over time, the list evolved into its present form as the ultimate daily guide to Windows news, but the one thing I've always tried to maintain is its personal touch: There's a real person on the other end of the email you get every day. I hope you're still seeing that a year later. I should report now that my experiences with the magazine have been simply wonderful, and I owe a debt and gratitude to everyone I work with, especially the poor people that put up with me every day and make these things happen. And thanks very much to you, the reader. You're the reason this thing exists at all.

WinInfo exclusives from February: Windows Me would ship May 26; this internal date was later missed when Internet Explorer 5.5 and Windows Media Player 7 both fell behind schedule. By the time Windows Me was finally released, it shipped with pre-release versions of both applications, as the company couldn't wait any longer. Microsoft was using MSDN to force Windows 2000 on developers by removing Windows NT 4.0 and Windows Me from the set of CDs it provides. A write-in campaign later caused a turn-around and an apology from Microsoft. Microsoft shipped the first internal build of Whistler, build 2197; I correctly reported that Whistler was "NT 5.1," and not a major new release. I said that Visual Studio would not ship in 2000, contrary to reports elsewhere; the suite of developer tools is still expected to ship in early 2001 as reported in WinInfo last February. The next version of Office, code-named Office 10, will feature voice recognition capabilities; I reported that "you will be able to navigate around the PC with commands, such as open, save, send and the like, but you'll also be able to dictate letters, email and other Office documents."

In March, Windows 98 was still the dominant OS, used on over 85 percent of all PCs connected to the Web; NT was second with 9 percent, Mac was at 2 percent, and Linux was somewhere around 1-2 percent. Predictably, Sun backed away from standardizing Java, setting itself up for the C# backlash. AMD hit the 1 GHz plateau first with its Athlon processor; Intel released its own (troubled) 1 GHz chip just two days later. Tim O'Reilly and Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos had a public spat over Web patents that seemed to be more about publicity for both guys than anything else. Mozilla.org fired off the 14th milestone build of its Mozilla browser; four more milestone releases appeared before the end of the year. Rumors about a Microsoft gaming machine called Xbox were rampant; the rumors later proved to be true. Horror writer Stephen King tested the eBook waters for the first time with "Riding the Bullet;" demand for the novella brings Amazon to its knees. Apple Computer sued eMachines and Daewoo for making iMac-like PCs. Dell Computer became the number one selling PC maker in the world, surpassing Compaq for the first time. Microsoft announced that it had sold over 1 million copies of Windows 2000 within the first three weeks of availability; the company then remained silent for the rest of the year about sales, which were rumored to be far below expectations. After announcing that the Xbox would indeed see the light of day in 2001, Microsoft handed 3D video card chipset maker NVIDIA a $200 million advance for its work on the Xbox; the move was a smart one as NVIDIA later swallowed up the assets of its only real competitor, 3dfx. Analysts begin complaining about Microsoft's decision to remove some business oriented features from Windows Me; the company relents somewhat and re-adds a few of these features. Reports surface about pirated builds of Whistler that had been ferreted out of Redmond; the reports are later revealed to be true and I review the releases on the SuperSite for Windows. Microsoft quietly cancels TaxSaver 2000, which had been on the market for a grand total of three months. The reason: A deal with H&R Block to collaborate on future tax preparation software. Microsoft quietly releases SQL Server 7.0 Service Pack 2. The most exciting news of the month revolved around last minute attempts to settle the Microsoft antitrust case: Microsoft and DOJ lawyers hammered out proposal after proposal to end the stalemate, but the efforts later proved to be fruitless. CEO Steve Ballmer even leaked an email to employees in which he reiterated the company's desire to settle the case. Microsoft unveiled Windows Media Player 7, which would be included in Windows Me. Microsoft performs yet another reorganization; no one notices. Intel bumps the Celeron to 600 MHz while filling out its Pentium III line with 800 and 866 MHz versions.

WinInfo exclusives from March: I refuted rumors that Windows Me would miss the lucrative holiday 2000 sales season and noted that the Beta 3 release was due within a month. WinInfo discussed problems introduced in the Beta 2 Refresh of Windows Me, which included a new TCP/IP network stack from Windows 2000 that broke compatibility with a number of network cards. WinInfo broke the news that Office 2000 SR-1 would be released within the week; it shipped on March 21 as expected. Microsoft drops the Hotmail add-in from the Office 2000 SR-1 CD-ROM; I incorrectly surmised that we'd see the add-in long before Office 10 shipped. The release schedule for international versions of Windows Me is revealed.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look back at April through June 2000 in Part Two of the Year 2000 retrospective. Stay tuned

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