Well, DevDays '99 got off to a disappointing start when it was announced that attendees would be receiving Windows 2000 RC1, not RC2 as previously expected (though Microsoft says DevDays attendees will get RC2 via mail). And it basically went downhill from there: All of the exciting new announcements about Windows DNA 2000 had taken place earlier in the week, leaving us with a day-long series of lectures and demos that basically reiterated information any self-respecting developer should have already known. On the other hand, it wasn't all bad: A pre-recorded Gates keynote provided some interesting details about Windows 2000 and the future of Windows/Web development, while a cool new Windows Installer tool for Visual Studio 6.0 users and a Visual Studio point upgrade filled the gap before the release of Visual Studio 7.0 in mid-2000.

"\[Windows DNA 2000 represents\] a new generation of applications that run on a server, instead of the desktop," Gates said during his opening keynote. "In this new age of Internet applications, we're making it as easy as possible to build these applications."

Microsoft's Internet strategy focuses on four basic components: tools (Visual Studio), data (SQL Server), middleware/"plumbing" (COM+), and interoperability (BizTalk and XML in BizTalk Server and the next version of SNA Server, code-named "Babylon"). And Windows 2000, of course, is the glue that makes this all possible, Gates says.

"Windows 2000 is the largest investment for Microsoft ever," he noted. "Microsoft is literally 'betting the company' on Windows 2000."

Gates noted that over 580 hardware makers, 140,000 ISVs, 500,000 customers, and 100,000 channel partners are working with the company to finish Windows 2000. Windows 2000, Gates says, is the standard for business desktops, laptops and servers, utilizing one user interface and one API for all four versions.

For Windows 2000 RC2, which was released today as reported earlier in WinInfo, one small feature was removed from the product, component load balancing. This COM+ feature, which was poorly implemented in earlier betas, will see the light of day in AppCenter Server, which is due in "mid-2000." But AppCenter Server offers a far more complete solution than the half-baked component load balancing feature that got stripped out of Windows 2000, so it's not a loss by any stretch of the imagination. AppCenter Server will provide "virtually unlimited capacity" for Windows servers by providing idiot-proof fault tolerance, load balancing, cluster management, replication, and synchronization across any number of machines. A demo of the new server was impressive. No other features were removed from RC2.

"Microsoft is running its entire business--everything--on Windows 2000 now," Gates said