Windows NT Magazine
has learned through confirming sources inside Microsoft and close to the Windows 2000 (Win2K) project that Microsoft plans to stage its release of the Win2K OS over the next 4 months. According to independent sources, the company had planned to release Win2K Professional (Win2K Pro), the workstation version of the OS, to manufacturing around Thanksgiving (November 25) and release Win2K Server to the general public on February 17. The gold code for Win2K Pro will most likely appear around the same time as Comdex, and the gold code for Win2K Server will appear in late January. When I spoke with Microsoft, a spokesperson for the company was unable to confirm or deny these dates; however, the company said it plans to release three of the four OS products at the same time to manufacturing by the end of the year. Several trade publications and industry newsletters have run rumors the last few weeks indicating that Microsoft’s Win2K schedule had slipped into next year. Microsoft president Steve Ballmer has said as much in recent press briefings and industry outings. However, the internal schedule for release on Microsoft’s Web site, which recently had a release to manufacturing (RTM) date of November 17, has now changed to November 10. Win2K Release Candidate 3 (RC3) is also supposed to appear sometime in November. Windows NT Magazine has learned that manufacturing of Win2K Pro will proceed after the official RTM date in late November. For some time, the beta testing community has had a general impression that Win2K Pro is a stable product. Win2K Pro is largely unaffected by the two problem areas affecting the server product: Active Directory (AD) management and interoperability and some of the features of implementing the Kerberos security scheme. RC2, which Microsoft released in mid-September, included few changes to Win2K Pro but many changes to Win2K Server, particularly in the area of AD. One reviewer described the changes in RC2 as AD 1.1. In this light, Microsoft's staged release makes sense. By releasing Win2K Pro in December, Microsoft can claim to have made at least some of its year-end deadline and can prepare the market for Win2K Server’s release. This schedule might make the analyst community a little less critical, but it probably means very little to general users and administrators. Clearly Microsoft will take some PR hits if it doesn't make its end-of-year deadline, and it's clear that many of Win2K Pro's most important and useful features aren’t going to be available until Win2K Server ships to support them. Microsoft will experience some fallout as a result of the later release of Win2K Server. For one thing, Microsoft won’t be able to book the sales in the fourth quarter of 1999 as the company had hoped. Also, the late release will cause some hardship for Microsoft’s many partners and companies supplying hardware and third-party software. However, Microsoft apparently stacked these concerns against the difficulties of selling an OS at the Y2K boundary, and without resolving some of the enterprise problems remaining in Win2K Server, the company prudently chose to wait a little longer.