The U.K.-Register reported this weekend that Microsoft is continuing to pump out new builds of Whistler, the next version of Windows 2000, though testers haven't gotten access to the releases mentioned in the report. According to the report, builds 2276 and 2281 have turned up "in the usual nefarious channels," builds that supposedly feature a 10-second boot times and a number of bug fixes. Frankly, the thought of any Windows 2000-based OS booting in that amount of time is hard to believe, and I've seen nothing to suggest that Microsoft will be able to pull this off on currently available hardware. The company is working with BIOS makers, however, to create "Fast Boot" systems that are only now coming out for Windows Me. The goal of these systems is to boot Windows in less than 30 seconds, which is far more believable. Dell Computer was the first PC maker to offer such systems.

The Register also reports that Whistler isn't the hardware hog that some had feared, but this is untrue as well: Current builds of Whistler are sluggish, even with the vaunted Visual Styles feature turned off. And I've heard directly from Microsoft that the hardware requirements for Whistler are going to be much, much higher than they were for Windows 2000, in an effort to present a more realistic set of expectations for users. When I asked whether that meant that Whistler would require 128 MB of RAM, which I consider a realistic minimum, the answer was surprising. "For Professional and Server? Yes, that sounds about right," a source at the company stated.

The Register report also casts doubts on the April 18, 2001 RTM date (first reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE), but its unlikely that anyone ever found that date to be realistic. I expect the development of Whistler to parallel that of Windows Me: It will probably take about a year, since this release is to Windows 2000 as Windows Me was to Windows 98 SE, a minor upgrade with some exciting new visual changes. Microsoft has said publicly that it expects Whistler to ship in Q3 2001, and I still find this date plausible. The company is committed to a rapid release cycle for Windows, and it wants to get a consumer version of Windows 2000 out there as quickly as possible. For this to happen, however, several components need to come together. First, Whistler needs to be updated to the level of hardware compatibility that Microsoft obtained in Windows Me. Then, all of the features from Windows Me, such as Help & Support, Windows Movie Maker, and the Home Networking Wizard, need to be plugged into the new OS and, in many cases, updated. Finally, Microsoft needs to hone its Windows 9x/Me upgrade experience, since the company promised an easy upgrade path.

If Microsoft can pull this off, Whistler will finally usher in an era devoid of the DOS baggage of the past. Ironically, this will come in the midst of a changeover from CD-ROM-based software to Web-delivered software services, but the company's goal of providing the very best possible client and server software for this future is still important. And if Microsoft can pull off Whistler, it will have largely fulfilled the promises it began making a long time ago.

Thanks to everyone that wrote in about the Register report