In a sharp contrast to the Microsoft-sponsored study mentioned in yesterday's WinInfo, a study completed by the Gartner Group suggests that the cost of migrating an enterprise from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 will, in fact, be quite expensive. Call it the case of the dueling studies.

The Gartner Group study contends that the return on investment (ROI) of Windows 2000 is three years. And by that point, says Gartner VP Michael Gartenberg, you'd have to upgrade to another operating system anyway.

"Enterprises must understand that TCO \[Total Cost of Ownership) reduction is not a justification for a Windows 2000 desktop migration," says Gartenberg in the report. "Because of the high cost of migration, enterprises can actually lose money before they touch the first system."

The Gartner study estimates the effects of migrating a 2500-system office from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000, and does not cover the costs of additional server-side components that are unique to Windows 2000, such as Active Directory. Gartner says that the upgrade could cost up to $2000 per desktop PC, or up to $3000 if they are currently running Windows 95 or Windows 98.

"We're reminding people that they're looking at one side of the equation because the cost of getting to TCO is greater than the cost they are going to save. It's a money-losing proposition," Gartenberg says. "\[Microsoft\] touted that the cost of ownership of running Windows 2000 is cheaper than NT 4.0 or Windows 95, but they don't tell you what it costs to get there."

Microsoft, of course, disputes the study's findings, saying that businesses will realize benefits from the Windows 2000 upgrade "immediately." The company stands by the report conducted this summer by Andersen Consulting