Are those tremors in the Northwest?

Product delays by Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. have the potential to shake up the
technology landscape dramatically.

I’m not talking about year 2000 readiness. Nor am I guessing that the Justice
Department will break Bill Gates’ Microsoft into a bunch of Baby Bills or that
Federal Trade Commission actions threaten Intel’s industry dominance.

I’m talking about delays with Windows 2000 and with the forthcoming extra-fast
Pentium III chips.

Do they seem like mere blips on the coming products radar to you?

Maybe. But sometimes minor blips turn into major earthquakes.

The other day, a top government vendor stopped by to chat. Our conversation strayed to
when Microsoft will finally release Windows 2000, the heir apparent to Windows NT
4.0—or perhaps I should say the heir erratic.

“Our [government] customers have basically given up,” he told me.
“They’re tired of waiting. All of our major sales accounts have been going with
NT 4.0. Don’t expect them to adopt Windows 2000 immediately, whenever we see

No one at Microsoft or its federal office will say much about the shipping delays for
an operating system originally promised by early 1998. The rumor mill now pushes the
release date to mid-2000.

Network administrators have special reason to be concerned about Windows 2000 Server. I
have heard that as many as one-third of existing applications will not work under the
beefy new network OS, including some in Microsoft’s own BackOffice suite. Microsoft
reportedly is dumping certain features just to get the NOS out the door.

And it appears that Windows 98 will not be the last 16-bit, backward-compatible OS to
use the 9x kernel, as the company stated a few years ago.

NT, which stands for “new technology,” was supposed to be the future for all
OSes out of Redmond, Wash. Successive NT versions were to arrive for home, office,
portable, workstation, server and data center. A stable, evolutionary 32-bit NT kernel
sounded good to feds fed up with crashes and conflicts.

NT instead seems to stand for “not today” and “not tomorrow,” or
perhaps “not true.” Win98 will have a life beyond the service pack expected
later this year.

Linux, the little OS that could, has drawn widespread attention partly because of all
the delays with Windows 2000. Intel has promised to help optimize the freeware Unix OS for
its Pentium III processor. And two of the government’s Big Three hardware vendors,
IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Corp., have decided to ship Linux on their boxes. It probably
won’t be long until Compaq Computer Corp. jumps on the Linux bandwagon.

Meanwhile, Intel’s rival chip makers continue to drop prices of their Celeron
clone processors. Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s K6-2 with 3D Now code fell flat, but
rumors of a K6-3 from the Sunnyvale, Calif., company have Intel a little concerned.

Intel has cut off development of the Pentium II line in favor of the Pentium III,
although superfast Pentium IIIs are taking Intel longer to produce than expected.

Intel had scheduled a 550-MHz version soon after the initial release of 450- and
500-MHz processors last month, to be followed by 600-MHz and faster versions. Intel had
planned by this spring to couple a 600-MHz Pentium III with an upgraded motherboard and
chip set running at 133 MHz—33 percent faster than the current BX chip set [GCN, April 20, 1998, Page 1].

But problems have delayed release dates by at least five months. The postponements,
together with Pentium III’s lackluster reception, have computer makers rethinking
their bottom lines.

Are these just blips for Intel and Microsoft? Only time will tell.

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