A Look Back at 2000

As I prepared this column, the first of the new millennium, I pored over the 52 Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE commentaries from last year. It's amazing how much ground we covered and difficult to wrap one's mind around it all. Obviously, the Microsoft trial dominated, garnering the most virtual ink in Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE. The trial was also the second largest source of email responses from readers, who were either behind my opinions 100 percent or writing things I'd rather not remember. The vote was split 60/40 as I recall. The Microsoft trial is one of those endlessly debatable topics (much like the US presidential election last year) with no clear answer. As a PC historian of sorts, I was drawn to the trial like a moth to the flame. This year will be different, I hope.

The topic that triggered the most email, however, was Microsoft's decision to stop supplying the CD-ROM copies of Windows that shipped with new PCs. I was foolish enough to voice my support for this move and paid the price. Let me quote a Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE comment from that humbling defeat: "I've received more than 500 email messages about Microsoft's decision to stop supplying OEMs with full CD-ROM versions of Windows 2000. And of those, only a small handful of you actually agreed with me. I haven't felt this alone since I voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988." (I didn't really vote for Michael Dukakis, of course.)

In early 2000, readers rallied to have Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) reverse its decision to drop Windows NT 4.0 from the main set of CD-ROMs automatically sent to subscribers. The decision, which also included Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), was reversed in a decision that came complete with an apology from Microsoft. The company said that it hadn't anticipated the continued demand for NT 4.0 after the launch of Win2K. Trust me, Microsoft, based on responses we get from Windows 2000 Magazine readers, the demand is there. And it's vocal.

Product launches were plentiful in 2000, and the launches were all pretty boring, unfortunately. Microsoft launched Win2K in San Francisco with Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. I purposefully missed this event and was glad I did. Microsoft launched Windows Me, sort of, with a lame tour of shopping malls across America that attracted less attention than the latest Spice Girls album—and deservedly so. And in September, Microsoft launched its so-called .NET Enterprise Servers. I was falling asleep during Microsoft President Steve Ballmer's oddly tame speech when my brother-in-law, who works for EMC, got me out of there. The only semi-interesting "launch" was Microsoft's original unveiling of its .NET strategy—and that involves a set of products and services that won't be ready for years.

But don't tell Microsoft it was an off year. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary with a stadium show and a hardcover coffee table book that contorts history in ways that rival Stalinist Russia. "Inside Out: Microsoft, In Our Own Words" is a dangerous book, and I strongly recommend steering clear of this calculated attempt to make the company seem more touchy-feely. Plus, having a company patting itself on the back in this way is a little disturbing.

I probably wrote a bit too much about my laptop experiences last year, although I hope to conclude that chapter of my life with a follow-up some slow news week. (One classic and unforgettable response: "No offense, but who cares what #$%^ laptop you buy?" Point taken.) I also discussed my ongoing conversion to digital media, which began with my CD music collection. Coincidentally, I finally completed recording all of my CDs this week, a process that took many months and whose results occupy more than 10GB of space on my hard disk. I also entered the world of digital photography and haven't regretted it once: The pictures are wonderful, and it's easy (and cheap) to get prints made from online services such as Ofoto and PhotoWorks. Next up is a digital camcorder, but in the meantime, I've just started moving my 8mm camcorder home movies onto the computer using a wonderful Dazzle Digital Video Creator II device that can record in DVD-quality Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)-2 video. I'll need to upgrade to a larger hard disk soon. I'm sure digital media will be a semi-frequent topic in the coming year as well.

Looking forward, 2001 promises some industry consolidations, but I don't think things will slow down much. Win2K will beget Whistler, which will probably be called Windows.NET 2001 when it ships late in the year. Whistler spells the end for the Windows 9x product family—and not a moment too soon. I like the digital media enhancements in Windows Me, but you just can't escape its shaky underpinnings until you move up to a real NT-based OS, and Whistler is it. Finally, good news for those seeking MCSE certifications: Whistler won't make the Win2K certification obsolete. Instead, Win2K and Whistler exams will be interchangeable. Many people worried that the Win2K certification would be quickly retired, but that won't be the case.

In any event, here's to a year of intrigue and happenstance in the world of high tech; I wouldn't want it any other way. Peace and good health to one and all throughout the year.

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