Win2K Shipping Dates/More on MFD Drivers

Rumors are flying about exactly when Windows 2000 (Win2K) is going to ship, with some people saying by the end of the year and others saying that it won’t ship until next February. What’s the truth? I honestly don’t know—but usually reliable sources tell me that Microsoft is considering a multiphase release—shipping Win2K Professional (Win2K Pro) this fall, up to 3 months ahead of Win2K Server and Win2K Advanced Server (Win2K AS). Why? Although Win2K Pro is pretty stable at this point, Microsoft is still fiddling with Active Directory (AD) and the associated administration tools. For more on this story, check out Barrie Sosinsky’s news story "Microsoft Sets Windows 2000 Ship Dates" online.

More on the OfficeJet Line and Other Multi-Function Devices
I’m delighted to present a much more complete answer to the Multi-Function Device (MFD) concerns raised in the last two UPDATE issues. If I said before that Microsoft wasn’t being helpful, let me take this opportunity to revise that; Microsoft is going out of its way to get answers now. I wish I could say the same for the vendors.

In a nutshell, Microsoft confirms that all the major MFD vendors—HP, Brother, Xerox, Epson, and Canon—are working on Win2K drivers. Release Candidate 2 (RC2) and RC 3 are shipping with a few drivers, including those for HP’s 1150, 1175, and R-series devices. A driver for the OfficeJet 700 series, including my OfficeJet 710 that started all the trouble, is undergoing testing. The driver probably won’t be ready in time for Win2K Pro’s initial release to manufacturing (RTM), and therefore, it won’t be in the shrink wrap, but it won’t be far behind. Unfortunately, HP has no plans at present to provide drivers for earlier OfficeJets.

The story on other vendors is somewhat less clear. I’m told that Canon won’t let Microsoft put its drivers in the Win2K shrink wrap, but the company is committed to the platform and will have drivers for most of its devices at (or shortly after) initial release. Brother’s position is the same. If you’ve purchased a newer device from these vendors within the past year, you should be in good shape; but don’t count on support for older models. Epson has just released its first MFDs in the United States and will have drivers but probably not before Win2K ships. Xerox has the biggest problem—with more than 60 MFD models. Some models will have Win2K drivers this year, especially the more expensive models.

What’s behind this lack of vendor support? I’m told it's partly because MFD vendors, who work hard to differentiate their products based on the scanning software they bundle, are afraid of letting Microsoft have access to their proprietary driver technology. Another reason is that the much-touted Windows Driver Model (WDM) didn’t provide mechanisms for handling the three-in-one (printer/scanner/fax) drivers required by MFD devices.

Microsoft assures me it's working hard to improve the situation. Besides getting as many MFD drivers out for Win2K this year as possible, the company is developing a new Windows Imaging Architecture (WIA) for future devices. WIA will appear first on Millenium, the consumer product intended to replace Windows 98. Don't panic. I’m told that the binary driver model for WIA is common to Win2K as well, and that Millenium driver development is actually hosted on Win2K—developers do only final regression testing on the new OS. For more information on WIA, click here.

What About Windows NT, Win2K Server, and Other Topics?
The first two issues of the Windows 2000 Pro UPDATE newsletter have resulted in a lot of reader email—which I appreciate. If you haven’t received an answer, it’s because I’ve been too busy to get to them all, but I’m working on reader email as fast as I can. Some of you have written to ask about coverage of Windows NT and of various server-oriented issues. Let’s be clear: This particular newsletter is dedicated to Win2K Pro—the desktop version of Microsoft’s next high-end OS. If you're interested in other topics, check out Windows NT Magazine’s other UPDATE newsletters.

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