In an interview with PC Week, Microsoft VP Jim Allchin, the man most directly responsible for Windows 2000, described the OS as basically complete, with only "tweaking" left to be done between now the final release in October. And Allchin did a bit to downplay the Microsoft mantra about shipping Windows 2000 when its customers tell them its ready.

"We have a set of ship criteria that's incredibly complicated," Allchin said. "It's qualitative and quantitative. There are stress tests we need to pass. We have to test 'x' number of configurations and have 'x' number of deployments to go forward. I see a graph every day that shows where we are."

And where are they exactly? In the home stretch and looking good, according to Allchin. The shear numbers involved with determining this are almost overwhelming: Microsoft has certified over 300 computers from 89 PC makers as "Windows 2000 Ready." Over 20 of its Rapid Deployment Partners (RDP) will begin running Windows 2000 Beta 3 on their production servers starting in May. A total of 580 systems, 700 network devices, 2000 printers and 4200 modems have been certified as Windows 2000 compatible. And Microsoft will begin running its own systems on Windows 2000 when Beta 3 ships April 28. As for lines of code--a hot topic of debate among Microsoft's detractors--Allchin says that Windows 2000 Professional contains about 29 million lines of code. And Server comes in at about 31 million. For comparison, Windows NT 4.0 SP4 contains almost 20 million lines of code: Given the improvements in Windows 2000, the jump isn't all that great.

"When we ship the system, it will have higher reliability than any system a customer currently has with Microsoft," he said. "But it's a large beta. It still has lots of bugs, and that's why it's still a beta."

As for the Beta 3 release, Microsoft is expecting big things. Over 500,000 testers will get the product, and the company will offer it for $59 from its Web site for anyone interested in testing it. Numerous PC makers will also be bundling the Beta 3 release with their PCs. And despite a last-minute delay of one week, expectations are high. Stay tuned