Though Windows 2000 isn't due in retail stores until its official February 17th launch, buyers of new PCs will be in for a treat starting Monday, as Windows 2000 is now an option on new computers shipping from major PC makers such as Dell, Compaq, Hewlett Packard and the like. Select PC makers have offered Windows 2000, which suffered through a previously unheard-of two and a half year development time, as a beta product since mid-1999. But beginning Monday, PC makers are offering the final code with new machines.

Though PC makers are barred from advertising the availability of Windows 2000 on their Web sites until February 17th, the number of Windows 2000-equipped PCs will rise dramatically as the official launch date nears. Microsoft will use the immediate availability of Windows 2000 PCs as a selling point during the launch. Servers, workstations, desktop PCs, and laptop computers will all be available with Windows 2000 in the days ahead.

If you're waiting to buy the boxed retail version of Windows 2000, however, you're going to have to wait until February 17th. Microsoft has no plans to release the product any earlier, though warehouses are currently bursting at the seams with pallets full of Windows 2000 retail boxes as this is written