Jennifer Edstrom of Bridge News reports that Microsoft has completed coding the feature-set for Windows 2000 and is now rushing to tidy up the product, do performance testing, and prepare it for an October 1999 release. Yes, you read that right: Under the current plan, Beta 3 Release Candidate 1 will ship in mid-March, while the final Beta 3 is due in April. And in October, Microsoft will ship Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server to an eager public (Datacenter Server will be released 60-120 days after that). Does it sound too good to be true? Well it gets better: Microsoft has reversed course on a major technical decision that would have limited the initial appeal of the product. Instead of just supporting the ACPI power management standard, Windows 2000 will support the legacy APM standard as well, opening the operating system to a far larger market.

"\[Windows 2000 is\] feature-complete at the moment. Customer demand may drive additional features, but we don’t expect that to happen, nor do we plan on adding new features on our own," said Eric Brad, a Technology Specialist at Microsoft. "We’re treating this like the final version of Windows 2000. The main criteria with Beta 3 is a high quality release that people can bet their business on."

Additionally, hardware vendors such as Dell and Compaq will begin selling hardware bundled with Windows 2000 Beta 3 in April. Corporate customers that purchase these machines will receive support through Microsoft, while individual users will be able to get an advanced peek at a next generation OS if they so desire. And a Beta 3 to final release upgrade path *will* be supported so that corporate customers can feel more comfortable testing the beta. If you're not going to be purchasing a new computer this spring, Windows 2000 Beta 3 will also be available for the price of media when it becomes available, via a Corporate Preview Program similar to that employed with Office 2000 Beta 2. It's expected to cost less than $100, although that price will not be applicable to the purchase of the final release version.

These remarkable developments come amid reports of a massive reorganization at Microsoft, which is expected to dramatically change the way products are managed and sold. If the reorganization unfolds as expected, Windows 2000 will become part of a new Enterprise group headed by Microsoft VP Jim Allchin.