Industry sources are reporting that Microsoft has set an internal date of October 28, 1999, for the release to manufacture (RTM) of Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server), and Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Win2K AS). The company plans to release Windows 2000 Datacenter Server (Win2K Datacenter) in 90 to 120 days, which suggests a date between mid-February and mid-March 2000. The current schedule has Release Candidate 2 (RC2) slated for release on September 1, 1999, and a possible release date of October 6, 1999, for RC3. Microsoft just delivered to developers an interim build, 2099, with documentation labeled RC2. Fixes in the build include new hardware drivers and better hardware detection. Debugging code in this release still masks Win2K’s eventual performance. Microsoft plans to officially release the new versions of Win2K to coincide with Fall Comdex ’99 in Las Vegas on November 14, 1999, when Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates will deliver the first keynote speech. For the developers and partners who have labored on Win2K, Fall Comdex ’99 will be something of a coming out party. The company released Microsoft Access at a Fall Comdex, and last year was SQL Server 7.0’s turn. Microsoft declines to comment on the ship dates, saying only that they are contingent on resolution of issues arising from the beta program and its review of customer comments. Several vendors have announced that they will freely upgrade servers and notebooks to Win2K. Compaq began its server and workstation upgrade offer on June 15, 1999 for its Windows 2000 Ready program line, which doesn’t include its notebooks. Hewlett-Packard’s upgrade offer includes servers through notebooks. Although reports of significant bugs in RC1 have circulated, they won’t be showstoppers. Microsoft is under considerable pressure to ship Win2K and get on with business. Win2K’s delay has cost Microsoft partners uncounted millions of dollars in lost revenue, and has started to cause some very serious losses for suppliers of products for the Win2K portfolio. Compaq’s decision this week to abandon its efforts to develop Alpha technology for 64-bit Windows probably stems as much from poor sales for NT on Alpha systems as from the company’s revenue shortfalls, held back in part Win2K’s delay. Compaq’s decision to push its 64-bit TrueUnix OS undoubtedly results from its frustration with the pace of Windows development. Other problems have surfaced. SGI entered the NT workstation marketplace earlier this year with a unique product, its Visual Workstation. Had Win2K Pro shipped 6 months ago, SGI would be in a position to benefit from its innovation, but instead has suffered losses of nearly $20 million per quarter on the product line. While SGI’s problems go well beyond Windows, the loss of such a high-profile partner in a product area--graphic workstations--that Microsoft needs to penetrate is unfortunate. Microsoft has found itself in a must-win situation with Win2K. The company must release a stable and reliable OS, free of major flaws, to advance the platform into new corporate marketplaces. Microsoft committed to an aggressive new feature set, then had to decide whether to cut it to avoid delays. What we’re witnessing now are the results of the compromise made to retain the bulk of the feature set while holding the line on quality.