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1 in 4 users will have compatibility problems - Gates

On Thursday, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates launched Windows 2000, the long-awaited new operating system aimed at conquering corporate back offices, and admitted one in four customers would have issues.

In an interview on CNBC television Thursday evening, Bill Gates conceded there will be some compatibility problems for a staggering one in four users who upgrade from NT to Windows 2000. However, he predicted that it will be adopted by nearly all businesses in a matter of time.

The Microsoft chairman, who recently added the title of chief software architect to his name when he gave up the chief executive spot, responded to a recent report from consultant GartnerGroup that not all NT software would run on the new system.

"I think it's fair to say that one in four customers may have some issues as they move up, but the benefits are very dramatic," Gates said in the interview. But the computability issue won't stop users from adopting the software. "I think there's no doubt that over the next couple of years, all the business desktops will move to Windows 2000 -- whether that's upgrading the system in place or getting new hardware that's got Windows 2000 installed," Gates said.

At an official unveiling broadcast to more than 100 cities, Gates announced worldwide availability of the Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server OSes.

The company is attempting, with the new software, to move further into the high-end computer server market, where Sun Microsystems has been dominant, and to make its products more in tune with the Internet. Gates called the software "the first in the greatest generation of products ever released by Microsoft". He predicted that customers of Windows 2000 will receive significant reliability, scalability, performance and cost-effectiveness advantages over alternative platforms. The company's existing software, Windows NT, has been maligned by some software developers and users as too prone to crashes and not well-suited for big computer networks.

"Today we unveil the future of computing," Gates said. "Companies of all sizes are already deploying Windows 2000 for its scalability, reliability and performance." He added that the software cost more than $1bn (£610m) to develop, and involved work with more than 1,000 partners, a wide range of whom unveiled new products at the San Francisco presentation with Microsoft.

Gates was flanked by actor Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, a giant 40-foot laptop, and rock musician Carlos Santana and his band as he unveiled the new OS.

The company said Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server were available on Thursday. Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is expected to be available in approximately 120 days.

25% of users will experience issues with Windows 2000. Is that an acceptable figure? ZDNet UK News will be looking into this admission today and needs your response. Tell the Mailroom what you think.

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