"Today's completion of Windows 2000 represents a phenomenal team effort and would not be possible without the amazing contributions from our employees, customers and partners across the industry," said Jim Allchin, group vice president of the Platforms Group at Microsoft, in a press release.
Windows 2000 won't actually be available to users until Feb. 17, when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) plans a gala event to celebrate its release. But the Redmond, Wash., software giant has said for the last several months it is on track to release the program to its manufacturing plants by the end of the year -- a step that "freezes" the software in the form customers will eventually see.
Plagued with delays
One of the most complex software projects ever undertaken, Windows 2000 is also one of the most anticipated and most delayed. Well over a year late, the project has been plagued by a variety of setbacks, including a significant redesign and a management reshuffle just over a year ago.
Competitors have made Windows 2000 the butt of jokes; Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) Chairman Scott McNealy likes to say that Windows 2000, or "W2K," will be a bigger disaster than the year-2000 computer bug, or Y2K.
But once complete -- and assuming it works as advertised -- Windows 2000 will serve as the cornerstone of Microsoft's efforts to extend its market power from desktop personal-computer operating systems to Internet computing. It will be the first Microsoft operating system for use in high-end server computers, and company officials insist its reliability and stability will finally allow Microsoft to compete head-to-head with the Unix systems sold by Sun and other computer makers.
What's more, Windows 2000 will anchor a much more ambitious Microsoft initiative it calls "Windows DNA 2000," an entire suite of Internet and electronic-commerce applications, from Web and electronic-mail servers to a heavy-duty database, designed to run on Windows 2000. Ultimately, Microsoft officials say they hope to sweep aside makers of individual e-commerce applications such as database giant Oracle Corp.
Early reports from Microsoft customers trying test versions of Windows 2000 suggest it may live up to much of its billing. Barnesandnoble.com, a joint venture of Barnes & Noble Inc. and Bertelsmann AG of Germany, is running its entire Web-based bookselling operation on a prerelease version of Windows 2000 with no problems, said Gary King, Barnesandnoble.com's chief information officer.