EDITORIAL

Is Win 2000 a gambit?

Thomas R. Temin

Ten days remain until the official release of Microsoft Windows 2000.

Products come out every day, of course, but not products such as this. Three things make Windows 2000 significant: technology, timing and the fact that it is a huge debut from the biggest software vendor. Win 2000 will force government technology managers to make some important choices.

On the technology side, upgrading to Win 2000 is problematic. Some experts have estimated that Win 2000 is the biggest software undertaking yet.

It's really several products. One version is Microsoft Corp.'s foray into what is a final frontier for the company: corporate data centers. Microsoft wants Win 2000 users to have a single operating kernel from individual desktop PC clients to the glass-house servers. But on the data center end, buyers can choose other tried-and-proven alternatives.

Complicating the decision about whether to upgrade to Win 2000 is uncertainty over which applications will be compatible with the new operating system and which will stumble. Compatibility certification is expensive and detailed. As correspondent Drew Robb reports in this issue, so far only a handful of apps are fully certified.

In terms of timing, Win 2000 arrives when the technology environment is in flux. Growing numbers of organizations are deploying non-Windows clients on IP networks, Web-like architectures or the Web itself. Plus, there's the Linux OS, which is drawing big-time attention from industry players such as IBM Corp. And, PC demand has leveled somewhat, so Microsoft is taking in less from client OS sales, a major profit contributor.

Make no mistake. Microsoft, despite the bad press it gets over the Justice Department's antitrust suit and its bashing by competitors, remains popular with corporate customers, including government agencies.

Yet the company's clout has peaked. Now Microsoft must duke it out with other companies, other technologies and architectures. Call it the IBM phenomenon: In technologically driven industries, if you don't like the king of the hill, just wait a minute.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

Internet: editor@gcn.com

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