Windows 2000: Are there broken promises ahead?

Numerous (and suspiciously identical) reports on the Web have jumped on the Chicken Little approach to reporting, deriding Microsoft for "delaying" Windows 2000 past the New Year. According to these reports, which have spread around the Web like wildfire, Microsoft is delaying the launch of Windows 2000 until February. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen, but that's definitely not what I'm hearing now.

As I reported over the summer, Microsoft plans to use Fall Comdex 99 as the launching pad for Windows 2000. A year ago, the company did the same for SQL Server 7.0, announcing the imminent release of the database server at Comdex and then officially releasing it two months later. But unlike SQL Server, Windows 2000 will RTM by the end of the year as the company has promised and as I've been reporting all along.

The current timetable for Windows 2000 calls for a small Release Candidate 3 (RC3) release on November 11. This is just days before Comdex begins, so the company will be able to proudly announce that's its final release candidate (indeed, it's only "real" release candidate) was just made available. Pending any "show stopper" bugs, they will release it to manufacturing soon thereafter, on December 9, 1999. You heard it here first.

Now, the Windows 2000 release cycle is, of course, a moving target. Originally slated for RTM on October 6, 1999, Windows 2000 has dropped some features (Component Load Balancing and In-Memory Database, for example) while adding others (IPSec in Professional, for starters) over the past few months. In addition, the auto-logon security issues in Windows 2000 Professional were well documented here in WinInfo just this week. And, as expected, Microsoft executives are already downplaying Windows 2000's abilities as the product nears release.

"I think it's fair to say we got ahead of ourselves \[with some of the claims about Windows 2000\]," Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said this week. "And I think it's actually probably fair to say market perception lags reality. Part of the scalability argument wasn't about scalability; it was about reliability and availability."

Ballmer, like other Microsoft executives, continues to pledge that Microsoft won't release Windows 2000 until its customers tell them it's ready. But Windows 2000, like other Microsoft products, is on a schedule, come hell or high water. And that schedule says to RTM by the end of 1999.

"We won't ship it until it's right. There's no need to ship at this point, until it's absolutely, positively right," Ballmer said.

Still, it doesn't much matter when the company releases Windows 2000. Corporations, which are the primary target for the new OS, are loath to make such an expensive and complicated upgrade at this time. While numerous enthusiasts will likely run out and buy the Professional Edition at retail, this represents a small market when compared to the massive enterprise upgrades that Microsoft hopes to reap in the coming year

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