US Report: MS outlines Y2K program

Microsoft said the latest versions of its Internet Explorer browser are now Year 2000-compliant, thanks to recently developed fixes. Now it's a matter of getting the technology to customers.

The company soon will post a service pack for IE 4 which will contain the fixes needed to bring the browser and its accompanying platforms into compliance. Users will be able to download the technology from the Microsoft Web site at no cost. IE 3 patches are available today.

The fixes to IE will also bring Windows NT 4.0 into full compliance because the millennium problems in that product were actually due to the browser, Microsoft said.

Still, major products such as Office 95 and Windows 95 remain "Year 2000-compliant with minor issues." But Jason Matusow, Microsoft's Year 2000 strategy manager, downplayed the problem, saying products with the "minor compliance" tag don't contain any problems that "threaten the core stability" of the software.

All major Microsoft products for the Mac, except Outlook Express 4.0, are fully compliant according to a list on Microsoft's Year 2000 site . Older technology such as Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS v5 and Office 4x Professional Edition are not compliant. Microsoft has gotten a lot of flak for failing to address the Year 2000 problem quickly and thoroughly. But Matusow said the company is working to improve its handling of the issue through the Year 2000 site posted in April.

"At this point, the site is a little bit thin," Matusow said. "Our customers are asking us for a lot more information. We're going to give them that information." Matusow said the company is constantly updating the site and plans a major overhaul in the coming months. He urged people to visit the site frequently for the latest news.

Later this month, Microsoft will post a final list of all the products it plans to test for Year 2000 problems and the results of those tests. Eventually the site will become more searchable, contain hotlinks directly to fixes, and provide an expanded list of companies who fix the problem. Meanwhile, Matusow advised customers to:

  • Enter four-digit codes for dates

  • Address critical applications first

  • Examine customised code

He advised against turning a computer's clock ahead to test internally for compliance which he said already has led to major crashes at several companies.

Matusow said the biggest Year 2000 glitches are likely to surface in Microsoft products containing customised code and applications tailored to use numerous date functions such as an Excel document (although Excel is listed as fully compliant). Matusow warned that Microsoft is not obligated to post fixes for Year 2000 glitches that pop up after a company tinkers with a product.

"Quite frankly, we're not responsible for all of the things you do to the product. We can't be," he said. Studies show that companies are devoting about 30 percent of their development resources to the Year 2000 glitch but Microsoft said that number could run as high as 90 percent.