Last week, I had no doubts that Microsoft easily would manage to get its long-awaited Windows 2000 product out the door before the end of calendar 1999. But now, based on a number of emerging data points, that date's looking more and more wishy-washy.
Microsoft did not get Release Candidate 2 of Beta 3 out the door this week, as originally planned. Now, it will be lucky to do so by Sept. 15, as the beta testers at www.betanews.com are reporting. Sources close to Microsoft say RC3 is now looking like it won't hit testers by October 6, the date Microsoft had been counting on releasing the product to manufacturing. Betanews is predicting the product won't go gold until fall Comdex, i.e., mid-November, at best.
More evidence of problems: Microsoft had slated a major invite-only Windows 2000 Marketing Day for its hardware and software partners next week. Now, that event's been pushed off until mid-October, say sources.
What's going on? Microsoft's mum, but one of its strongest Windows 2000 backers, IBM, isn't. At a two-day press event at its Research Triangle Park facility, IBM executives reiterated the company's commitment to Windows 2000. But IBM also acknowledged its concerns regarding Windows 2000, ranging from directory synchronisation to Kerberos and systems management inconsistencies. It's not just standards compliance that's at issue, either. According to one of IBM's key Windows 2000 beta testers, Active Directory, arguably the most important component of Windows 2000, has only recently become stable enough to bear any kind of stress testing. When Microsoft released the first Beta 3 version in April, Al Williams, director of distributed systems for Penn State's Center for Academic Computing, says he couldn't get Active Directory to work at all.
Could marketing -- and not just technology gotchas -- be pushing back Windows 2000's release schedule, as well? Year 2000 concerns have dominated the minds and budgets of IT managers for more than a year. Rolling out a major upgrade to customers' desktops and servers is without question the last thing with which these folks want to deal. And the Gartners, Metas and other research houses have been warning enterprise customers for more than a year from even thinking about deploying Windows 2000 until later 2000 or 2001. If Windows 2000 does go gold in November, it's almost impossible that any OEMs, even the direct vendors, will have enough time to obtain, test and preload the OS on new hardware before January 1.
If Microsoft does, in fact, end up missing its calendar 1999 ship date target for Windows 2000, it's setting itself up for a slew of scheduling problems in 2000. As of this week, Microsoft is promising partners it will deliver its Millennium Consumer Windows, Windows 2000 Datacenter and 64-bit Windows releases in calendar 2000. That's a lot of potential OS upgrade options through which customers must wade in a single year.
What's really behind the constantly moving ship target for Windows 2000? What are you testers seeing/hearing/finding in your evaluations?
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