IT professionals know this story all too well: Even after you deploy new technology, old systems linger on, not used much but just enough to wreak havoc if they fail. They won't die—they won't even fade away. Just ask the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); just ask IT managers who spent billions of dollars on Y2K preparations.

Many companies plan to rewrite this tale, however, according to an exclusive analysis of data provided by Survey.com. The majority of companies that have started their Win2K deployments expect to complete the transition from NT and Windows 9x within a year, and the majority of the companies starting deployment now or in the next quarter agree: they report a timetable of 12 or fewer months for conversion. These numbers apply regardless of the platform on which the OS is to be installed—servers, desktops, or laptops.

Graph 1 shows the timeframe for completion reported by managers who have begun their Win2K deployment on servers and those who are about to begin. Graph 2 provides the same data for desktop deployments; Graph 3 deals with laptops.

On each platform, 66 to 70 percent of the companies that are prepared to begin Win2K deployments anticipate that they will complete the transition within a year.

Do these reports suggest over-optimism, given the transition demands? Perhaps a bit, but not much, according to companies already in transition. Among this group of more experienced managers, 57 to 66 percent expect to complete the transition within a year.

These figures do, however, indicate that desktops will take more time to convert from NT/Win9x to Win2K than the other platforms. About 40 percent of the companies that have begun the move to Win2K on desktops believe that it will take more than a year to complete; about 30 percent of the companies ready to begin agree. In contrast, fewer than 25 percent of managers believe it will take more than a year to move from NT/Win9x to Win2K on servers and laptops.

The emphasis of systematic transition to Win2K arises in large part because managers see the upgrade to Win2K as a location-wide or enterprise-wide operation, as shown in Graph 4.

As a top-down, system-wide upgrade, the Win2K transition has assumed a different character than other technology transitions fueled primarily from bottom-up demand. In bottom-up transitions, new technology frequently enters a corporation via the back door as renegade employees discover and embrace new and useful technology. Word gets around, pressure builds, then corporate IT staffs must scramble to regularize the new technology throughout the firm. Or, application-specific technology that lets a workgroup or functional area maximize productivity drives migration to new technology: Business Intelligence (BI) technology followed this route. Thus, while the transition to Win2K promises relatively rapid and systematic installations, its debut may not draw throngs of passionate users eager to embrace its benefits.