NT Workstation 4.0 makes comparatively sedate entry

Does Windows NT Workstation 4.0 run 16-bit applications? Yes, in most cases, says Microsoft New Zealand's Guy Haycock, who answers questions about the newly launched OS put to him by Andrea Malcolm.

The launch of NT Workstation 4.0 late last week was a laid back affair compared to the frenzy surrounding the launch of Win 95 last year. The product, which features a Windows 95-type GUI, is likely to ship by early September. Microsoft New Zealand's desktop and business systems marketing manager, Guy Haycock, fields questions on Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and Windows NT Server 4.0.

Q Does NT Workstation 4.0 run 16-bit applications?

A Yes, except where the application writes directly to the hardware. That's common for games but it's not business software. One of the areas where it gets grey is applications that are integrated with hardware, like a fax server. These are unlikely to run on NT but any well-behaved DOS or Windows-based 16-bit application such as MS Office, Aldus Pagemaker, or Lotus Organiser will run fine. In fact, it'll run better than on Windows 3.11 because NT has such great crash protection.

Q What hardware specification do you need to run NT Workstation 4.0?

A A 486 or higher with at least16Mb of RAM.

Q Is that realistic?

A Yes, I do see that as realistic. If people have less then I would recommend Windows 95. With NT version 4.0 we've reduced memory requirements so it's much closer to Windows 95. Anyway, there have been considerable drops in the price of memory over the past year.

Q Will NT Workstation 4.0 have plug and play capabilities?

A It won't have plug and play but it will in the next revision which is slated for early '98. Plug and play in a corporate environment makes less sense than it does in the home. If you're a network administrator you don't necessarily want people bringing in hardware and throwing it on the network. For home and mobile users I recommend Windows 95.

Q Will NT Workstation 4.0 run the same applications as Windows 95?

A Windows 95 and NT workstation both run the same 32-bit applications. They look exactly the same. Unless you know where to look, you wouldn't know the difference.

Q Can you do an automatic upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows NT?

A Both Windows 95 and Windows NT do automatic upgrades from 3.11. What's not automatic is upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows NT Workstation 4.0. You don't have to start from scratch but you do have to re-install all your apps. As far as I can see, the issue is not to upgrade from one to the other; the issue is to get from a 16-bit operating system to a 32-bit operating system. I don't envisage a lot of people upgrading from Win95 to Workstation 4.0. Many corporations have looked at Windows 95 and chosen to wait for NT 4.0.

Q Cairo, slated for 1998, will have a completely new network services directory. Will that make it radically different from NT 4.0, to the point where it will put investment in the current versions of NT at risk?

A If you want to take advantage of a new technology it requires some change. Microsoft has a very good upward capability story. A good example is Office 95, which can still use documents created in Word version 2. Cairo is a bit of a moving target. Things we talked about for Cairo have made it into current products. For example, distributed component object model (DCOM) which allows for objects and components to be transported across global networks. As far as a directory goes Cairo will be evolutionary rather than a destroy, rip out and replace. We get a lot of flak for not having a directory but we do. It's not the same as Novell NDS but it's not missing anything either. We do a unified security model so I can log on anywhere in the Microsoft world and my profile settings follow me.

Q What platforms does NT support?

A Alpha, MIPs, PowerPC and Intel. It also supports symmetrical multi-processing. It did that in version 3.51 and it gets even better in 4.0.

Q Doesn't it have problems with performance once you go past two processors?

A With NT 4.0, scalability is dramatically improved--30% better than NT 3.51. NT now scales linearly over eight processors. With NT 3.1, things did flatten off after four. That was a long time ago, though. If people are bandying it about that NT doesn't scale up they're talking about NT 3.

Q When will the pricing for NT come down?

A I don't think the price of NT Server needs to come down--it's cheap already--$1449 (ex GST) for a five-user licence and $2009 (ex GST) for a 10-user license. The most expensive way is shrink-wrapped, off the shelf. The cheapest way is with a corporate licensing agreement. You can also buy it bundled with hardware or as part of the Back Office suite. You will see high-end PCs from most of the PC hardware manufacturers bundled with NT Workstation 4.0. By high end I mean Pentium Pro--NT has some specific optimisation to take advantage of the Pentium Pro.

Q Is there an NT user group yet?

A Not that I'm aware of.

Q Do you think organisations will be exclusively Win95 or Windows NT?

A It's highly unlikely that people will run networks which are exclusively one or the other. It's not possible to do a one-size-fits-all so we have two products at the workstation level. Windows 95 has the best backward compatibility and NT is more reliable.

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