Microsoft's yearly TechEd conference, now occurring in New Orleans, is a massive get-together for software developers where future plans for Windows and other Microsoft products are discussed. This years TechEd promises to be no different, with two huge releases--Office 9 and Windows NT 5.0-- expected around the end of the year or beginning of next year. Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2--the final beta release for that OS, according to Jim Allchin--is due by the end of June, while some Office 9 testers can expect to have CDs by July. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer referred to the product as "Office 2000" last weekend.

Frank Artale, general manager of NT Enterprise and Systems Management at Microsoft, says an interim release of Windows NT 5.0 will be declared the Beta 2 "release candidate" soon, paving the way to the final NT 5.0 beta release later this month. Artale did admit that Microsoft would be releasing "many more refreshes" post-Beta 2 that they usually do with an NT beta, however. Artale hinted that NT 5.0 Beta 2 would be extremely widely available, saying that "anyone who wants to test Beta 2 \[will be\] able to do so." Hopefully, this comment will be clarified at TechEd later this week.

At a pre-TechEd "Fusion" conference last weekend, Microsoft VP Steve Ballmer knocked on the wood of his podium for luck and declared that Windows NT 5.0 would ship in early 1999. Details about NT 5.0 that were revealed during the weekend conference included the addition of Internet Explorer 5.0 to the OS, which Artale described as "a set of services" rather than a separate add-on product. Artale said that Microsoft wasn't sure whether COM+ would be ready for the Beta 2 release but that it would ship in time for the final release.

As for Office 9, Microsoft announced that the Office 9 technical beta would be ready by mid-June with a general marketing beta expected this Fall. In a sneak-peak to Fusion attendees, Microsoft showed off its new Office Server Extensions, which allow users to access Office features from a Web server. Microsoft compared them to the FrontPage server extensions, and said they would be based on existing Internet protocol standards