Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), Win2K Server, and Win2K Advanced Server (Win2K AS), with all key OEM partners and Joint Deployment Program sites signed off on the release. Microsoft Vice President Deborah Willingham said that some OEM partners had chartered airplanes to rush the code to their plants for loading on systems (the complete OEM package—which includes all 16 languages that Win2K initially supports—is a bit large for electronic distribution). Joint Deployment Program customers and Rapid Deployment Program customers will receive RTM code in the next few days, and Microsoft Select customers will get the code on the next Select CD in early January. Other volume-licensing programs and retail channel delivery will be available February 17. For full details, view the Microsoft press release here.

Win2K RTM Preview for $14.95
You can get an evaluation copy of Win2K through the Corporate Preview Program (CPP) Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/preview or by calling 1-800-442-9513. Evaluation copies cost $14.95 and include both Win2K Pro and Win2K Server; Advanced Server costs an additional $9.95. Evaluation licenses expire after 120 days, at which point you're expected to buy a regular Win2K license or stop using the product.

Why bother with a preview? Because with the RTM of Win2K yesterday, Microsoft has terminated support for all Win2K betas and release candidates (RCs). You can continue to use the betas or RCs until February 17, but if you run into problems, you're on your own. The RTM preview, by contrast, is fully supported through Microsoft's product support services (PSS), although support isn't free (no great surprise at those prices). For details on support options, go to the CCP Web site.

Active Directory Support for Win9x, NT Clients
Microsoft has developed extension software to provide Active Directory (AD) support on Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 9x clients connected to Win2K servers. The extensions let you log on to AD domain controllers, change passwords, run scripts, access distributed file system (DFS) volumes, and search Win2K Address Book pages. The extensions don't support advanced Win2K features such as Kerberos-based authentication, group policy, IntelliMirror, IP Security (IPSec) or Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP). Those features require the use of Win2K on the client workstations, as well as the server. The AD extensions for Win9x are included with the Win2K Server distribution CD-ROM; Microsoft will provide the AD extensions for NT Workstation 4.0 with Service Pack 7 (SP7). For details, browse here.