Reports that Microsoft is planning a March announcement and a June release of Windows NT 5.0 are just rumours and speculation says Microsoft New Zealand marketing manager Guy Haycock.
One US source says Microsoft might rush the planned beta 3 and deliver it as a release candidate. Microsoft has called NT 5.0's beta 2, released in August, "feature-complete". As with NT 4.0, Microsoft is expected to follow up with a number of service packs that would add features that did not make the cut.
But Haycock is urging caution.
"Frankly there is going to be a lot more of this kind of speculation as the time draws near," he says. "We will issue a street date when we are confident that everything that needs to be done to get the product ready has been done. We usually issue a street date in the same quarter as it goes out. It would be very unusual for us to issue a street date six or nine months out."
Haycock says beta 2 arrived in New Zealand about three weeks ago and has gone out to several hundred users.
"We are still receiving feedback on the feature set, stability and suitability to the task and then we have one more planned beta. Until we have got that into the market and got feedback it is too early to speculate on dates and features."
Haycock confirms that Microsoft believes beta 2 is feature-complete and any changes from now on will be minor, to do with user interface and style. "We might change the way the dialogue boxes look or some layout but we're not intending major functionality changes."
"There is no benefit in getting it out early," says Gartner Group analyst Michael Gartenberg, who has been advising customers that NT 5.0 will not be ready until 2000. "Beta 2 is unstable — there are even device drivers missing — and the product has got to be able to run everything from massive processor servers to a laptop."
IDC New Zealand general manager Dinesh Kumar says if a later shipment date means fewer bugs he would rather wait.
"The only reason Microsoft would be releasing an early version would be because of its confidence level in the product. The betas have gone to thousands of people and Microsoft must be fairly confident with the feedback it's got back."
Although IT managers may want to proceed with caution as they migrate from NT 4.0 to 5.0, Microsoft is working behind the scenes with system OEMs and top-tier corporate customers to push NT 5.0 on to servers and desktops more quickly, according to sources. PC OEMs also stand to gain from an earlier release date.
Richard Morgan, general manager of Christchurch-based Cyclone Computers, is hoping for a May/June shipping date. "If they [Microsoft] release it too late they'll find that a lot of people will hold off because IT departments will be under a lot pressure over Y2K compliance. They're not going to want to complicate matters further by migrating to another operating system."
Michael Takemura, desktop marketing manager at Compaq in Houston, says it would be an advantage for Compaq to get more customers on NT 5.0.
"You want to bring products forward as quickly as possible, and because customers require more processing power to run [NT 5.0], we are already motivated," he says.
When asked about what advantage the customer would gain from early adoption of NT 5.0, Takemura says, "That's the challenge with any customer. We are trying not to say you have to go with the first release."