SO WHAT'S THE deal with release dates? Unlike some places you'll visit on the Web, I get my product release from Microsoft. Yes, I've actually got people in and close to the Redmond software giant that forward me insider information on a fairly regular basis. So when a release date is off... well, that means that Microsoft missed an internal release date and a schedule slipped. But these dates aren't guessed, they don't come from a guy named Slappy in Hoboken, and they don't come from a dartboard on my office wall. The reason I print these dates in WinInfo is that so many people are clamoring to known when this stuff is coming out and, of course, Microsoft isn't talking, at least not publicly. But in WinInfo, you find out what the people inside of Microsoft are talking about: And that's something you just can't get anywhere else.

THANKS TO STEPHEN O'Grady for the tip: I'd heard a while ago that Microsoft was dropping the BackOffice name and it appears that it quietly happened this week. If you navigate to the old BackOffice Web site, you will be redirected to a new site for "Microsoft Servers." Likewise, this site, not the old BackOffice site, is linked to from Microsoft's main product page. Here's the deal: According to Microsoft, the individual products (SQL Server, Exchange Server, and the like) that used to collectively be called "BackOffice" are now individually called Microsoft Server Products. There is still a product called BackOffice Server, which includes the Microsoft Server Products under a licensing agreement that allows you to run all of them on one and only one server. But the server products that Microsoft makes are now called "Microsoft Server Products," a stroke of genius if there ever was one.

THANKS TO ALLEN Harkleroad for the tip: If you're a dedicated FrontPage 2000 user, you'll want to head over to the FrontPage 2000 COM Add-Ins page, which offers a number of nice add-ins that make this Web site development program work all the better. My favorite add-in removes that ridiculous blank page that appears when you start the program. Maybe Microsoft will take a few cues from this guy when the Office 10 beta starts.

WELL, IT'S FINALLY official: OS/2 is dead. IBM announced recently that the product once dubbed the "better Windows than Windows" has reached the end of the line and will be phased out within a year, beginning with the client version, which will see its last update, or "fixpack" in IBM-speak, in January 2001. Then the server and Workspace on Demand versions will be updated for the last time in May 2001. After that, support for selected OS/2 products will be offered only on a special-bid, fee-based system. Like the Mac OS, OS/2 suffered dramatic and irreversible marketshare losses when Microsoft released Windows 95 in 1995.

INTEL CORPORATION UNLEASHED powerful new versions of its high-end Xeon Pentium III microprocessors this week, chips that run at up to 700 MHz and feature lots of integrated L2 cache. And this is the first update for the Xeon in quite a while: While the PIII chip was inching up toward 1 GHz, the Xeon was previously stuck at a relatively stodgy 550 MHz. But Xeon processors feature one stunning improvement over normal PIII's: They can bet fitted with up to 2 MB of L2 cache, compared to 512 KB for the PIII. On the other hand, the PIII line was just updated with a 933 MHz unit. Hmm...

HOPE YOU WEREN'T holding your breath waiting for Microsoft to deliver the security patch for Outlook 98/2000 that the company promised two weeks ago: The company is delaying the release of the patch until next week so that it can add a few new features that will allow system administrators to modify the list of file types that are restricted by the patch.

ONCE THE KING of the microprocessors heap, the 64-bit Alpha has fallen by the wayside since its ham-handed decision to back off from Windows NT last summer. And make no mistake, that's what happened, not the reverse. But these problems haven't stopped Compaq, the chip's parent company, from trying to find some market--any market--in which this unwanted part could carve out a niche. With the impending release of the 64-bit Itanium, however, and ever-faster 32-bit designs from Intel that can operate in multi-processor, clustered boxes on the cheap, the need for an Alpha just decreases with each passing day. It's a sad fate for a wonderful design, almost an OS/2 for the hardware crowd, if you will.

SPEAKING OF CHIPS that no one uses, IBM is finally updating the oft-neglected PowerPC, which runs at the heart of the Apple Macintosh. And though Apple rumor sites are in a lather over the possibility of finally seeing clock speed increases after a year of disappointments, IBM's upcoming improvements are not geared at Apple's desktop PCs at all. Instead, the new chips will focus on the needs of portable computers, and embedded and wireless devices only. But don't get too excited, PowerBook fans: These are previous-generation G3 chips that IBM is improving, not the high-end G4, which is too big and hot to run in any portable device. Boring!

NO, IT'S NOT a new version of the Macarena: OOBE stands for "Out Of Box Experience," a Microsoft marketing term for what new users will see the first time they turn on a new PC. Well, the company has been working to improve the OOBE for Windows Me users, and I've got an exclusive preview on the SuperSite for Windows, along with some other additions, including a Windows Me FAQ updated for RC1 and a new installment of "Teach Yourself Windows 2000 Server." Head on over to the SuperSite and check them out!

AMERICA IS CELEBRATING Memorial Day this weekend, which means we'll be foisting our three-day weekend schedule on the rest of the planet as usual. But that also means that there won't be any WinInfo on Monday, which I really can't complain about. Like many of you, I'll try and peal my pale body away from the computer this weekend, get outside, and burn a few hot dogs on the grill. Enjoy the weekend and be safe! --Pau