US Report: MS breaks silence on NT5

Ending almost a year of delays and promises since it released its first NT 5.0 beta, Microsoft is finally within 100 critical bugs of delivering Beta 2.

That's according to the almost three-hour NT 5.0 status report that Microsoft officials presented to a few hundred Unix and NT researchers attending the second annual Usenix NT Symposium in Seattle yesterday. Microsoft provided a live demo of Build 1868, a test version released internally a day or two ago, and also did a demonstration of a pre-beta version of its forthcoming NT Services For Unix add-on pack.

But just because Microsoft is in the final throes of its Beta 2 process doesn't mean the product is ready for prime time. When demonstrating NT 5.0's disk management service's ability to self-correct, a Microsoft official crashed the demo. Nonetheless, Microsoft is making progress. "We are code complete across all areas, and are down to less than 100 total showstoppers. We hope to have Beta 2 out by the end of this month," said Tom Phillips, group program manager, NT Base.

Showstoppers are must-fix bugs that must be eradicated before a software product is released. Another developer close to Microsoft said he heard that Microsoft is closer to having only 50 showstoppers left in Beta 2.

Last week, Microsoft posted to its private beta tester web site build 1859 of NT 5.0, which the company is calling a "release candidate" for Beta 2. Many expect Microsoft to be aiming to deliver Beta 2 by August 18, the start of a major two-day NT 5.0 reviewers workshop in Seattle. Publicly, Microsoft has acknowledged it plans to release Beta 3 for NT 5.0 before year-end, and that it expects to deliver NT 5.0 commercially in the first quarter of 1999. But during its most recent earnings call, Microsoft told analysts not to count on the company earning any revenues from NT 5.0 during fiscal 1999, which ends on June 30. Most testers and developers are expecting Microsoft to deliver the final NT 5.0 code in the third or fourth quarter of next year.

Microsoft's Architect for NT Storage Felipe Cabrera jokingly told Usenix attendees that Microsoft was proud to be reducing the current 30 million of lines of code in NT 5.0. "We're doing this by cutting features," Cabrera quipped.

While Usenix attendees peppered the Microsoft officials with a variety of questions, especially about the viability of NT 5.0's forthcoming hierarchical storage management system, the technology in which they were most interested was the NT Services for Unix interoperability pack that Microsoft announced earlier this year.

The pack will go to a broad beta "within the next few weeks," Microsoft officials told the audience. The product, due to ship before the end of the year, is likely to carry an estimated retail price of $149 (£87) per client or server and will remain a separate add-on for NT 4.0 and 5.0 going forward, said Microsoft.