Microsoft: I'll show you mine

Officials offer sneak peek at 64-bit Windows 2000. But the company's supposed "mainframe-killer" Datacentre release still remains nowhere in sight

In a corner of their booth at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, Microsoft officials were offering a sneak peek at the future.

During his keynote speech earlier in the day, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates remained mum on any products under development. But that didn't prevent his company from demonstrating an early version of its 64-bit version of Windows 2000 to a handful of interested attendees at the NetWorld+Interop show.

An official demonstrating the product cautioned that the version in the booth was a pre-developer release now circulating inside Microsoft among a handful of software developers. He said Microsoft wants to ship a first beta of Windows 2000, 64-bit edition, sometime this summer.

Microsoft expects to ship the final version of 64-bit edition simultaneously with Intel's delivery of its IA-64 processors, before the end of calendar 2000. The software maker has been developing a 64-bit version of Windows in lockstep with 32-bit Windows 2000 for the past three years. The company expects to continue to ship 32-bit iterations of its operating systems for the next decade, officials have said.

Competition between rival operating systems

Microsoft's Windows 2000 is only going to be one of several operating systems available for the Intel 64-bit systems. Others include The Trillian Project's IA-64 Linux; IBM and The Santa Cruz Operation's Project Monterey; and Sun Microsystems's 64-bit Solaris on Intel port.

Windows 2000, 64-bit edition, isn't the only business operating system under development at Microsoft. First out of the gate, Microsoft is expected to deliver its first service release for Windows 2000. Originally, the company was expected to package up all the interim fixes and patches it has made to the release and deliver them to customers by mid-2000. The company has not offered any kind of an update on its service release plans.

Microsoft is also continuing to work on Windows 2000 Datacentre, its mainframe operating system competitor. So far, Microsoft still has not delivered to OEMs or end user customers a second beta version of Datacentre. (It shipped Beta 1 to 200 Datacentre testers last September.) Microsoft had been attempting to deliver the new version by mid-April, according to knowledgeable sources.

But during his morning speech, Gates said Datacentre remains "several months" away from final delivery. Microsoft officials have said repeatedly that Datacentre would ship commercially 90 to 120 days after Windows 2000, which would indicate sometime around June 17.

Microsoft also continues to work on Whistler, its upgrade to Windows 2000, which it is hoping to ship some time in 2001. At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in April, Microsoft officials put an alpha version of Whistler through its paces for conference attendees. At that time, Microsoft officials characterised Whistler as a fairly minor upgrade to Windows 2000.

Whistler is slated to ship in both 32-bit and 64-bit iterations, according to internal Microsoft documents.

How much innovation are we getting in Microsoft's world? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Microsoft Word will put a squiggly line under a misspelled word, but that "innovation" took about five years to develop. John Dvorak says the company's scorched-earth policy is dooming it.

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