Some see ploy in NT rename

Microsoft's decision to rename Windows NT as Windows 2000 has some corporate users preparing to wait even longer for the release date than Microsoft is publicly predicting. Many find it hard to believe Windows 2000 will come in 1999, as Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer, relentlessly promised last week. "They're trying to cushion the blow a little bit in case the dates slip,' says one.

Microsoft’s decision to rename Windows NT as Windows 2000 has some corporate users preparing to wait even longer for the release date than Microsoft is publicly predicting.

“I had doubts about it coming out in 1999 before the name change,” said James Graham, a network architect at Atlanta-based BellSouth Business Systems Inc.

“They’re trying to cushion the blow a little bit in case the dates slip. But I think it would be better to wait til 2000 anyway because people will be too busy with year 2000 issues to go crazy making the switch,” Graham said.

This week, Microsoft announced that its heavy-duty NT operating system would take on the Windows 2000 moniker, signaling the end of Microsoft’s investment in DOS-based operating systems such as predecessors Windows 3.1, 95 and 98.

Because Windows 95 shipped in 1995 and Windows 98 shipped in 1998, some industry watchers said they find it hard to believe Windows 2000 will come in 1999, as Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer, relentlessly promised last week.

The wait will leave corporate buyers with a couple of choices: wait for NT 5.0 while sticking with Windows 95 or 98 or moving to NT 4.0; or contemplate other server-based operating systems, such as Novell Inc.’s NetWare 5.0 and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris 2.7, which are on the move.

Indeed, while Microsoft continues to ponder a ship date, other operating system vendors are hitting the ground running.

Sun announced a 64-bit Solaris this week. IBM is teaming up with The Santa Cruz Operation and Sequent Computer Systems Inc. to build a merged Unix for the Merced chip. And Novell’s NetWare 5.0 shipped last month.

As for Graham, he said at this point if he needed more NT, he wouldn’t wait for NT 5.0 but would buy NT 4.0.

But he’s also in the process of switching over 68 application servers from NT to Unix.

He said the move is based on the fact that Unix scales better.

Analysts at International Data (IDC), a sister company to Computerworld, and Forrester Research predicted that most users would move to NT 4.0.

“Even if a company has plans to go to NT 5.0, the majority of organisations are going to wait a year to 15 months to implement it,” said Bill Peterson, an analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC.

“Now that Service Pack 4 for NT 4.0 has shipped with a lot of cool stuff, NT 4.0 is a solid product with an impressive installed rate,” he added.

Isaac Applbaum, CEO of Concorde Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of Bank of America, said renaming Windows NT was a great marketing plan.

“They’re hedging their bets,” Applbaum said. “It’s a brilliant idea. If NT 5.0 comes out in 1999, they’re big winners. If it comes out in 2000, they can say, ‘See, that’s why we named it Windows 2000.’”

In Ballmer’s keynote at the recent Networld/Interop ’98 conference, he said the fact that NT 5.0 still doesn’t have a ship date bothers him. “It’s still a ways in the future, and I feel terrible.”

Microsoft has dragged its feet for more than two years talking about the NT 5.0 operating system. With an active directory and new security features, NT 5.0 is in the second phase of a three-part beta-testing cycle. And despite the occasional slip of a date reference from various executives, an official ship date still hasn't been set.

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