Can Windows NT be a one-size-fits-all solution?

For 3 years, Windows NT Magazine has been advocating Windows NT for business and Windows 9x for consumers. Finally, Microsoft is recommending the same thing. But Microsoft says that in the future, Windows 2000+ will incorporate the same operating system (OS) kernel as NT. At that time, NT will support environments of all sizes, from individual home users to large corporate enterprises. This strategy doesn't make sense.

What Is Enough?
For the past year, I've been receiving monthly press releases about all the new features in NT 5.0 that will support a broad range of computing environments. Although I'm excited to hear about these new features, I wonder whether Microsoft is trying to do too much at once. When the number of lines of NT source code starts growing as fast as Bill Gates' fortune, you've got to ask, "What is enough?" Eventually, will we need a DVD drive just to load NT, or will we shuffle CD-ROMs the way we used to shuffle 3.5" disks during installation? Think about it: millions of lines of code, thousands of programs. That's OK for an enterprise OS, but are consumers supposed to run the same OS on home PCs? I don't think so.

What NT Users Want
In a March instaNT Poll on the Windows NT Magazine Web site, we asked readers, "If you had to choose, what would you want most from NT 5.0?" Readers responded with these results: new features--such as Active Directory--(27 percent), greater reliability (26 percent), greater security (26 percent), and greater performance (20 percent). That's quite a challenge: Microsoft must simultaneously add features to NT, increase its reliability, and enhance its security. According to readers, if Microsoft loads NT 5.0 with new features but hurts its reliability or security, users will be unhappy. If I were a Microsoft developer, I wouldn't be sleeping much.

So why doesn't Microsoft just freeze NT's features now? Unfortunately, Microsoft developers won't let UNIX or NetWare one-up them on features--these competitors might make headway in certain areas of the computer marketplace.

So what. GartnerGroup, a leading IS research group, predicts that 90 percent of all servers will ship with NT by the year 2003, despite the delay of NT 5.0. The message to Microsoft is clear: If you focus on reliability, not on competitors, you'll eventually beat your competition.

Meanwhile, businesses have a pretty reliable OS to use (i.e., NT 4.0). Businesses have Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO), and plenty of information about NT 5.0's coming features to help reduce anxiety about the massive migration that will need to take place after Microsoft ships NT 5.0.

What Microsoft Needs to Do
Dear Microsoft: Take the time and get NT 5.0 right. You might sacrifice a little short-term gain, but you'll win in the long run. NT is getting bigger every day. Keeping NT focused on the needs of businesses, and making NT as reliable as possible makes sense. Don't make even one change to NT that sacrifices reliability, security, or performance for the sake of making NT more home-user friendly.

NT is a professional OS that requires support from professionals. When people ask me what OS they need, I tell them, "If you don't have access to professional support, buy Windows 9x." Microsoft needs to continue to make consumer OSs. Long live Windows 2001! Long live NT! And I hope the two will never meet.

Happy Anniversary
This issue marks the third anniversary of Windows NT Magazine. In 3 years, Windows NT Magazine has grown to more than 300,000 subscribers in nine languages--it's the fastest growing paid-circulation computer publication in the world. As the magazine moves ahead, it will provide more of the practical, forward-thinking editorial that has helped professionals such as you and your peers get your jobs done for the past 3 years.

Thanks to everyone who has helped create this magazine. Keep your letters, Reader to Reader submissions, Web Community Watch insights, Reader Challenge responses, articles, columns, product reviews, and online contributions coming. Windows NT Magazine is a reader-driven publication, and we aim to keep it that way.

Windows NT Magazine's family of publications now includes Selling Windows NT Solutions, Cha-Ching, UPDATE, Exchange Administrator, Small Business Server Administrator, and coming soon, SQL Server Magazine and a Windows NT scripting newsletter. We hope you use and enjoy these publications in the same way you've told us you use and enjoy Windows NT Magazine.