In an interview with the Gartner Group, Microsoft VP Jim Allchin, the man most directly responsible for Windows 2000, says that the beta 3 release of the OS, which was released last week, is better than any production OS Microsoft has ever shipped. And though the beta still has bugs left to be worked out, it's on track for a year's end release. Windows 2000, Allchin says, is the most important product Microsoft has ever created.

"Beta 3 is more solid than any OS we've ever shipped," Allchin said. "In our stress tests, it performs better than NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4."

And Allchin briefly mentioned the next Consumer Windows, code-named "Neptune," as well. Neptune will focus on user interface simplicity and multitasking, an interesting combination.

When the popularity of Linux came up, Allchin was quick to downplay its significance.

"Linux is UNIX," Allchin said. "I don't consider it to be very innovative. The profit motive will end up ruining and tarnishing the altruism people use to promote this thing." Meanwhile, Allchin took exception to the perception that Microsoft doesn't innovate, noting the kernel and telephony improvements in Windows 2000 as recent examples. But he also added that there's no shame in "standing on the shoulders of giants" where it makes sense