Last Thursday, the Gartner Group announced that Windows 2000's (Win2K's) total cost of ownership (TCO) will be sky high and might not provide a good return on investment (ROI). Gartner estimates that the TCO price tag for migrating from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro) might be between $1250 and $2050 per desktop. Likewise, the TCO cost for migrating from Windows 9x will be between $2015 and $3100 per desktop. Gartner introduced TCO a few years ago to help companies measure the costs associated with purchasing, deploying, and managing their systems. As a result of such concepts, many sell-happy product developers see the existence of Gartner as a scourge on the industry. To provide an over-simplistic example, the TCO for migrating from DOS to Windows 3.1 involves more than just the price tag of the new OS. The TCO includes, for example, the cost of upgrading video cards, the time it takes technicians to install Windows 3.1 on all the computers, and the time you spend training your employees to use the new OS. Add to this cost the price of converting from DOS-based word processors to Windows-based word processors, and the price tag starts to balloon. Although Gartner's numbers might stop your heart, remember that TCO is an attempt to expose the hidden costs of migration. Keep in mind that the TCO for your previous migrations was probably much higher than the simple cost of the OS software and installation. However, Gartner issued a not-so-happy overall evaluation of Win2K's economic impact for interested enterprises. Michael Gartenberg, Gartner Group research director and vice president, said "Enterprises must understand that TCO reduction is not a justification for a Windows 2000 desktop migration. Because of the high cost of migration, enterprises can actually lose money before they touch the first system." Gartner's report goes on to say that the TCO is a base desktop migration cost only, and doesn't reflect the cost of migrating servers nor the cost of adding third-party tools to shore up what Gartner deems to be Win2K weaknesses. The same day that Gartner released its report, Microsoft posted the results of two independent studies it commissioned from Arthur Andersen that make claims opposing statements in the Gartner Group report. Coincidence? The two Andersen studies, one on Win2K Server Beta and the other on Win2K Pro Beta, conclude that converting from earlier Windows products to Win2K will result in lower TCO. The studies, which Anderson conducted over a 5-month period in its testing labs, claim that deploying Win2K will have a positive effect on the ROI for certain companies. The positive ROI effect will be less for companies without a dedicated IT staff and for those that have a highly managed network infrastructure using third-party solutions. Andersen's conclusions of positive benefits draw on such factors as Win2K's ease of use, increased reliability, enhanced scalability, and the impact of Active Directory (AD) on centralized management of distributed systems. You can find a summary of Andersen's report at the Microsoft Web page, http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/1999/09-08study.htm.