WinInfo 2000: The Year In Review (Part Two)

Welcome to Part Two of my Year 2000 retrospective. Last time, we took a look back at January, February, and March 2000; now it's on to the second quarter...

April started with a bang--literally--when Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson announced that settlement talks between Microsoft Corporation and the U.S. government had broken down. Jackson had put off his ruling with the hope that the two sides could come to an agreement, but with that nasty business aside, he presented his conclusions of law. The document was devastating to Microsoft, with harsh language and a strong condemnation of the company's actions. Jackson said that Microsoft was a bullying monopoly that illegally abused its power to harm competitors, partners, and consumers while it crushed innovation in the computer industry. And the judge found the company to be guilty of two of the three charges that were brought against it. "The Court concludes that Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anticompetitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web browser market," Jackson wrote in his ruling. "Microsoft also violated \[Section\] 1 of the Sherman Act by unlawfully tying its Web browser to its operating system. The facts found do not support the conclusion, however, that the effect of Microsoft's marketing arrangements with other companies constituted unlawful exclusive." The DOJ was understandably pleased with the ruling, while Microsoft threw together a press conference in which Bill Gates said the company would remain focused on "building great software."

Meanwhile, Microsoft's reorg was in full swing, with the company hoping to rally around its Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) strategy, soon to be renamed .NET ("Dot NET"). Microsoft somehow allowed Office 2000 SR-1 to ship with the typical assortment of bugs, and the company issued a hot-fix to help the patch work better with Windows 2000. Microsoft announced that it would release BackOffice Server 2000 by the end of the year, but that never happened; my spies tell me that BackOffice, the product, is dead, and that all of the product managers from the BO2K team were reassigned last fall. Project 2000 and Services for UNIX 2.0 were released, along with a beta version of Internet Explorer 5.5, which seemed to offer nothing more than some bug fixes and a new Print Preview feature; maybe they should have called it IE 5.02. In response to the IE release, AOL released the first public preview of Netscape 6, which garnered a lot of interest until people actually tried to use the bug-ridden product. The Wall Street Journal published an article stating that the government was seeking to strip IE from Microsoft as punishment for its guilty verdict in the antitrust trial; a day later, the paper retracted the story and issued an apology. Microsoft released a preview of BizTalk Server 2000, but the product was far from complete: The company finally released the oft-delayed BizTalk in December 2000. Microsoft gleefully demonstrated some interesting antitrust-busting problems in Windows Me, when it demoed the upcoming release at Spring COMDEX: "We should definitely note that we didn't require any third party applications there and we didn't have to install any separate drivers. That was just all part of Windows Me," said Windows Me program manager Chris Lye during a keynote address. He then explained the "pervasive" use of Internet links in the new product. "The Internet begins to permeate almost every feature in Windows Me." As reported previously, Microsoft quietly re-added support for legacy networking protocols to Windows Me after business customers complained; Windows Me, of course, is aimed solely at the home market. Microsoft unveiled its PocketPC platform, the latest version of Windows CE; I incorrectly predicted a quick death, but it went on to become the most successful version of CE yet (some might say "the only successful version"). In what was becoming a string of bad news for the software giant, the once divided U.S. states and Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly came to an agreement on the proposed remedy for Microsoft: Break them up. The government was supposedly recommending a three way split, but this became a two way split by the time the plan was complete. Whistler raised its head in alpha form for the first time publicly when the company demonstrated it at the WinHEC conference.

WinInfo exclusives from April: Office 2000 SR-1 was released with major bugs and would need to be fixed and re-released. Windows 2000 Server was found to have a bug that prevented it from using more than 51 IP addresses in certain situations; I discussed the problem with the person that discovered the bug and was alarmed to discover that Microsoft tried to bury the problem. MetaCreations quietly dumped all of its desktop software to become an Internet startup; good timing too: The move came just as the Internet IPO market was dying. The Windows Me release was adjusted according to Microsoft's internal schedules, which placed the final release on June 16th. I revealed Whistler's solution to "DLL Hell," a technology code-named Fusion.

In May, IBM unveiled its new ThinkPad A and ThinkPad T product lines, which I immediately lusted after. Microsoft released a beta version of Windows Media Player 7, which I described as controversial; of course, I now used the darn thing every day like a good zombie. Microsoft's executive exodus continued with the departure of CTO Nathan Myhrvold, a curious genius with a love of science and wine. The ILOVEYOU ("Love Bug") virus haunted Outlook users. Microsoft released its remedy proposal, which amounted to a document stating, "we're not guilty, but if we were, this is what you should do to us;" the DOJ later blasted Microsoft's proposal. Microsoft releases IE 5.0 for the Macintosh, while Apple delays Mac OS X yet again. Microsoft quietly delayed Windows 2000 Datacenter Server for the second time; the server was originally due to ship with 90 days of Windows 2000. Windows Me's Fast Boot technology is revealed. The Dot Com companies begin dying out, finally; the first major loss is, an online clothing retailer. The Windows Me beta coordinator, "Skeeter" (later revealed to be Amanda McClellan) takes a swipe at me when she writes, "If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times... Don't rely on non-Microsoft sites for beta information. They're hardly ever right, and when they are it's usually because they guess." My response: "If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times... Don't trust anyone who won't tell you their real name." What Skeeter didn't tell the beta testers: I had the same schedule information she did. Microsoft began beta testing DirectX 8.0, which was described as a major update. (Aren't they all?) Real Networks released Real Entertainment Center in retaliation to Windows Media Player 7; no one noticed. Microsoft announced the first public beta of MSN "Mars," which became known as MSN Explorer; it integrates Web browsing, searching, and digital media into a single user interface. Microsoft VP Jim Allchin, who headed the development of Windows 2000, left the company for a "vacation" that I incorrectly predicted was permanent; Folks, Elvis is back: Allchin did return in late summer. Judge Jackson returned to the scene with a startling request, asking the DOJ to make its proposed remedy for Microsoft more severe; the DOJ took its plan back to the drawing board but didn't end up changing it much. They had been asking the judge to split the company into two parts, but Jackson thought a three way split might make more sense; in the end, the judge used the DOJ proposal as his judgment against Microsoft. And then Microsoft postponed a planned NGWS strategy briefing when the DOJ released its revised proposal. The Pentium III line was bumped to 933 MHz.

WinInfo exclusives from May: Windows Me Release Candidate 1 release was revealed (and re-revealed after I redid some simple math). I previewed Microsoft's Activity Centers technology on the SuperSite for Windows. The Windows Me "BugMaster" reveals that the release of Windows Me is "imminent." Microsoft fixes Office 2000 SR-1 and re-releases it as SR-1a. Microsoft quietly posts a beta of Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1). The first round of Office 10 technical beta testers are notified, and Microsoft tells them that the beta will start that July. Microsoft dropped the "BackOffice" moniker and renamed its server line as "Microsoft Servers." The Windows Me "Out of Box Experience" is revealed on the SuperSite for Windows.

In June, Microsoft issued its final brief before Judge Jackson's ruling against the company, a "offer of proof" document that attempts to introduce additional witness; Jackson declines the offer scornfully. The MSCE certification was updated for Windows 2000 and, thankfully, made much harder to obtain. A Microsoft office in South Africa was bombed in what was described as a terrorist attack. Microsoft quietly fixed the 51 IP bug that was reported in WinInfo and BugNet previously. Microsoft ended its relationship with Sega; the companies had corroborated on the Dreamcast game system, but Microsoft decided to go its own way with the Xbox. Bill Gates discussed the "business Internet" and NGWS during his TechEd keynote while I struggled to stay awake. Visual Studio 7--soon to be renamed Visual Studio.NET--was previewed at TechEd too. Microsoft announced BackOffice 2000, but the product might never be released, as discussed here previously. And then the day of destiny arrived: On June 8, 2000, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft should be broken up into two separate companies, one responsible for operating systems, and the other for applications programs. The judge referred to Microsoft as "untrustworthy" and "not credible" in his harsh ruling, noting that the company never admitted its guilt, would likely continue to break the law unless broken up, and that the software giant lied to the court repeatedly. Joining the "Dot Com downturn," the Linux bubble burst as Linux companies began laying off people and running out of money; it was only a matter of time. Internet Explorer 5.5 was released. Microsoft's executive exodus continues with the departure of Tod Nielson, who joined an Internet startup in Seattle. Intel revealed that Whistler would include support for its "Bluetooth" wireless networking technology. The U.S. District Court of Appeals jumped on the Microsoft Express and announced its eagerness to take on Microsoft's appeal; the DOJ and Judge Jackson preferred the Supreme Court to take the appeal, however. While all this was going on, another of Steve Ballmer's emails to employees was leaked; this own told the troops to stay the course and focus on NGWS. "People simply can't believe that a company which has created so many great products for consumers and done so much good for the U.S. and global economy is being threatened with burdensome regulations, let alone a court-ordered breakup," he wrote. Microsoft showed off the new features in Mac Office 2001, which went by the name Mac:Office when it shipped later that year. Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) is finally released, but it includes pre-final versions of IE 5.5 and Windows Media Player 7; oddly, the company held back the retail release of the product until September 14. Intel released a new mobile Pentium III chip that ran at 750 MHz and a low-power 600 MHz design. Microsoft quietly released IE 5.01 SP1 and then removed it from their site just as quietly. The .NET announcement, however, was huge: On June 22, the company unveiled its next-generation Web services strategy. We're still trying to deal with that name, which befuddles just about every search engine on the planet. The Linux problems continued when Corel stock took a nosedive after the company announced another massive loss. Microsoft let slip that it had developed a new programming language called C# ("See Sharp") that it had previously denied working on; for shame! Intel released three new Celeron chips running at 700, 667, and 633 MHz. Microsoft announced that Windows 2000 had over 3 million customers since its release four months ago. In a bizarre bit, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison admitted that his company had spied on Microsoft; Ellison didn't just take the blame, however, he reveled in it: Microsoft wasn't amused. Intel announced that its next generation microprocessor, code-named "Willamette," would be (creatively) titled the Pentium 4 when it shipped that October; it was later delayed until November.

WinInfo exclusives from June: The Outlook Security Patch was delayed. Whistler Beta 1 release is revealed, along with news that it will ship in Personal and 64-bit versions; the company originally planned to ship Whistler in April 2001. Internet Explorer 5.5 goes Gold. Microsoft completed Systems Management Server (SMS) SP2. Prompted by three Compaq engineers, I reported that Windows 2000 was returning to Compaq's Alpha platform; the company subsequently denied this, and it has yet to happen. A defeat of epic proportions, I agree. However, WinInfo was on the money again when the Whistler technical beta began, promising "awesome XML/XSL-based skinning capabilities that far surpass any customizing features in Windows today."

Tomorrow, we'll take a look back at July through September 2000 in Part Three of the Year 2000 retrospective. Stay tuned

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