According to Greek mythology, Sisyphus was sentenced to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it plunge back down as he neared the top.
Recent research suggests Microsoft Windows 2000 may suffer a similar fate: While surveys find the new operating system will gain ground on the desktop -- the OS is expect to roll downhill in an area considered critical to the company's future.
Windows 2000, which cost an estimated $8 billion to develop, represents one of Microsoft's biggest product launches ever. Although the company doesn't anticipate a Win95-style rush to purchase the new OS, it's counting on sales to significantly boost the company's revenue growth -- from 18 percent this quarter to 25 percent over the next two quarters, according to Microsoft Chief Financial Officer John Connors.
Indeed, a World Research study indicates that IT managers plan extensive and rapid upgrades to the new system, with promised improvements in reliability being the biggest lure. The survey found that, by January 2001, 90 percent of desktops in all organizations will be running some modern variant of Windows, while more than 40 percent will be running Windows 2000 Professional.
But additional research by Survey.com shows the OS faces an uphill battle, especially in the computer server market that's so closely linked to the Internet. The importance of this segment to Microsoft's future hasn't been lost on the company, which has worked aggressively to change perceptions that Windows servers are less robust than Unix ones.
It seems the company has failed to convince, however. A Survey.com study of 2,200 decision-makers in industry, government and education -- conducted between mid-November 1999 and mid-January 2000 -- suggests Open-Source UNIX will make gains -- at Windows' expense.
In two years, Windows NT/2000 is expected to have a smaller share of organizational servers, while adoption of Open-Source Unix is predicted to increase its server share between 100 percent and 500 percent on the same applications.
The Survey.com figures don't predict a downturn in Windows NT/2000 deployments. They do reveal, however, a shift toward alternative platforms. And this hearkens problems for the software giant down the road.
Even if Microsoft is wildly successful at pushing desktop adoption to the top of the hill, declining server market share threatens to roll its Win2000 rock right back down the hill again.