Microsoft jolted some customers this week when it announced there would be a third beta release of Windows NT 5.0, prompting widespread speculation and reports that the operating system's release would be delayed until mid-1999.
Not so, Microsoft said. In fact, company officials maintained that NT 5.0 is still on the same schedule. All that's changing is the name of a scheduled "interim" release of the NT 5.0 beta code, insisted Mike Nash, director of marketing for Windows NT Server.
Here's how Nash explained the change: In May, Microsoft said it would delay the release of the Beta 2 software from the first half of 1998 to sometime this summer. At the company's recent Tech Ed conference, NT 5.0 managers said the software would be released six to eight weeks after Tech Ed, which would mean before the end of July.
In keeping with past practice, after Beta 2 ships Microsoft will continue to release "interim builds" of the software, including one called Beta 2 Refresh, which will be a more thoroughly tested version of the beta code that is sent to a selected group of customers. "But [Beta 2 Refresh] sounded confusing, so we changed the name to 'Beta 3,'" Nash said.
When Beta 2 ships to some 200,000 customers, it will be "feature complete," according to Nash. That means it will have every new feature Microsoft has promised, including Intellimirror technology, Active Directory and plug-and-play capability.
There will even be a bonus: Beta 2 also will have the multiuser terminal server capability that's just now being released as Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition. "The terminal services will be there, but they will need more work to be finalized and tested, because they were added late in the process," Nash said.
At this stage, Microsoft is not planning to change any of NT 5.0's key features, Nash said.
"No shipment date has been announced for NT 5.0," Nash said. "Beta 3 should not affect the shipment schedule because it's simply a renaming of the Beta 2 Refresh. And the refresh has always been part of the development plan."