Microsoft to ship final Win 2K prerelease

Microsoft will issue a third and final release candidate of Windows 2000 around the second week of November as the last test version before it ships code to manufacturing before year's end.

RC3 will only be shipped to several hundred to a few thousand of Microsoft's most strategic beta customers rather than the roughly 750,000 who have been testing Windows 2000 for more than a year, said Craig Beilinson, lead product manager of the operating system.

"The goal of RC3 is to make sure we've really got the final buy-off before we release it to manufacturing (RTM),'' Beilinson said.

The version, which will be delivered to larger users in the early development and deployment programs, is the sixth prerelease version of Windows 2000 to be distributed. It will help Microsoft ensure that the changes it makes based on feedback about RC2, which was released on September 15, are stable. Beilinson declined to say what changes are in RC3, however.

"It's just continued cleanup, moving toward RTM,'' said David Croweak, Windows 2000 project leader at Travelers Insurance in Connecticut, which is expecting RC3 to arrive. IT managers at Prudential Insurance of America said they are also awaiting RC3 but declined to discuss it.

Analyst Joe Clabby of the Aberdeen Group said any extra steps Microsoft makes to ship stable code are crucial.

"Microsoft has a huge vested interest in making sure that Windows 2000 does not fall on its face,'' he said. "This release is one of the most complex versions of NT they have ever done. This is a huge quality-assurance effort. I think it's prudent of them.'' Clabby said he expects code to be released to manufacturing by the second week in December and for it to be shipped to the first users during the last week of the year.

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