Long hailed as the one component that would delay the release of Windows NT 5.0 again and again, IntelliMirror is going to make it in time for the Beta 2 release of the operating system. IntelliMirror--which allows central management for PCs on a network--was first announced last summer, but the feature was unavailable in time for NT 5.0 Beta 2. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said this winter that IntelliMirror was crucial to the success of NT 5.0.

"Without...IntelliMirror, I don't think we're doing the seminal step forward that people expect out of NT 5," Ballmer said. "It's absolutely essential we get that product right. If it's a few months later, I'd hate it--I'd love to have it now--but we're better off getting it right."

Getting it right has taken a while, but now Microsoft is poised to deliver a feature-complete Beta 2 release of NT 5.0 in June. At the WinHEC conference last week, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates downplayed the concept of centralized computing while somehow publicizing IntelliMirror in the same breath.

"IntelliMirror gives you the best of both worlds," he said, because it enables clients on a network to be centrally managed.

Basically, IntelliMirror provides several capabilities, though the client machine--generally a NetPC--will need to support these features in its BIOS. IntelliMirror provides client-side caching for applications that run on a central server, as well as remote boot capabilities. Administration is handled from a central server. A new module called Microsoft Installation Services will allow administrators to manage NetPCs on the network and provide upgrades and service packs easily