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Mid-year shipment for Windows 2K? Maybe…

If the promo programme's kicking in, it means Microsoft thinks it has a shot at it

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Windows 2000 (aka NT 5.0) could ship as early as second quarter next year, if the timeline attached to a couple of promotional campaigns for the product is to be believed. Microsoft is due to kick these off next week at Comdex, and while that doesn't necessarily mean that Beta 3 by Thanksgiving will be achieved, it means it's close. For our non-US readers, incidentally, Thanksgiving is the weekend after Comdex. There are three programmes to be put into effect. A Windows 2000 Ready programme will be run in conjunction with PC manufacturers, whose mission, should they choose to accept it, will be to make sure their hardware is ready to run the new OS when it ships. Compare and contrast with the Windows 98 Unready programme Microsoft seemed to run prior to the launch of another product earlier this year. The other two are more interesting. The Business Ready Kit (BRK) is for the great unwashed, and is intended to encourage people to buy NT 4.0 machines that are ready to run Windows 2000. These people are not going to be encouraged to try to get onto the beta programme. The Corporate Preview Programme (CPP) is the one that tells us Microsoft thinks it has a shot at shipping Windows 2000 by May, and where the company is effectively juggling with razor blades. The CPP is aimed at a handful of Microsoft top customers, no more than a couple of thousand globally, and is intended to pull them into the evaluation process for Windows 2000 early. It was originally intended to kick off at the end of the summer as -- at least partially -- a NetWare 5 destabilisation campaign, but beta 3 slippage stopped that. Microsoft can't afford to have its major customers messing around with something that's embarrassingly unstable. Microsoft's plan for the CPP was therefore to get something that was viable enough to run networks on out to its key customers, allowing them to plan Windows 2000 deployments for six months or so down the line, and stopping them going wandering off investigating potential rivals. They're also supposed to be stroked a lot, so they feel they're part of an elite club, and that club's also supposed to be small enough for Microsoft to be able to really listen to what it says. A widespread beta wouldn't be viable, because the company couldn't do this, and would open itself up to criticism if (or when) smaller companies' key data started going south. It's not however absolutely certain that the current plan will work. The original Windows 2000 promo campaigns were put on ice at the last minute, when many of the execs involved were already tooling-up for them. More recent indications are that Microsoft has been thinking more in terms of Q3-Q4 for rollout. So has it been pulled forward again because things are looking better, because they've decided to pull some more features, because Bill's shouting, or because they're being hopelessly optimistic? On track record, probably all bar one of these is true. ® Click for more stories Click for story index

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