Users not waiting for NT 5.0

Tired of hearing about delays and mystery timetables for the release of Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0, some corporate users say waiting for it isn't part of their plans. But that doesn't mean they won't buy NT. It means they will continue buying NT 4.0. Microsoft acknowledged last week that Beta 2, due by June 30, won't be ready until fourth quarter. And there's no word out of Redmond, Washington, when the official release might show its face.

Tired of hearing about delays and mystery timetables for the release of Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0, some corporate users say waiting for it isn’t part of their plans.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t buy NT. It means they will continue buying NT 4.0.

Microsoft acknowledged last week that Beta 2, due by June 30, won’t be ready until fourth quarter. And there’s no word out of Redmond, Washington, when the official release might show its face.

“There’s nothing wrong with sticking with the current version of NT,” says Isaac Applebaum, president and CEO of Concorde Solutions, the California-based information technology arm of Bank of America. “We don’t mind spending a little time with an older release that is tried and more stable.”

“At this point, we haven’t looked at anything mission-critical that NT 5.0 brings or anything we need to delay launches for,” says a technical manager at a major agriculture manufacturer. “If we have new NT applications [to deploy], more than likely we’d just go with 4.0. There’s no wait.”

Jean Bozman, an analyst at International Data (IDC), said that because Microsoft is dragging its feet getting the next release of NT out the door, the company may be pitting NT 5.0 against NT 4.0.

“There’s going to continue to be demand for NT,” Bozman says. “IT managers are already into the environment. Applications will get larger, databases will get larger, and this will require IT managers to buy more NT. It’s a setback for NT 5.0, but not necessarily for continued NT sales.”

Bozman added that IDC research shows that NT is expected to post a 21% compound annual growth rate between last year and 2002. That is the fastest of any server-side operating system IDC tracks. Unix came in second at 9.8%.

The question is whether companies buying more NT 4.0 will invest in NT 5.0 soon after.

Most users said they probably won’t be in a position to invest in a major operating system upgrade anytime around the turn of the century, when NT 5.0 is unofficially reported to be hitting the streets. That reason alone could delay buy-ins for up to a year.

Microsoft last week addressed the fact that Beta 2 for NT 5.0 didn’t see the light of day by the end of last month, as was expected. It was originally due in early second quarter.

Tonya vanDam, Microsoft’s group product manager for Windows NT Server, says Beta 2 should come out by fall.

Microsoft has sidestepped putting an official date on the release all along but unofficially has maintained for several months that it is expected in next year’s first or second quarter. VanDam won't comment on reports that it is now pushed back to next year’s fourth quarter.

“I wouldn’t venture to guess on that, to be honest with you,” she says. “When we hit Beta 2, we’ll give you the Beta 3 milestone. If I gave you a date, it would be guessing at this point.”

VanDam says there isn’t one particular problem holding up the release, adding that Microsoft wants extra time to “focus on quality.”

She said users will see complete feature sets of data and file synchronisation, plug and play and the much-touted Active Directory. None of those features were completely functional in the first beta.

Regardless of why it is late or exactly how late it will be, users are neither shocked nor dismayed. Many say they were expecting it.

“Of course, I’m not surprised,” says Paul Soares, general manager and vice president of Alden Buick Pontiac GMC in Massachusetts. “When you’ve dealt as long as I have with the computer world, delay is a fact of life. ... They’ve delayed before. They may just delay again.”

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