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MS allies with IBM in major Win2k client upgrade push

And Big Blue adopts Win2k as standard for 300k internal desktops

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Fixing the Win2k rollout date for February (Earlier story) is only the first stage of the battle for Microsoft; now the company has to make sure the new OS is a success from day one. Information received by The Register over the past couple of days indicates that Microsoft will be specifically aiming for widespread desktop client upgrades from the off, and has been busily forging alliances with key PC OEMs to accelerate this process. The old enemy, IBM, is one of the most important of these - and now Microsoft and IBM are once again the firmest of friends, it turns out that Big Blue is going to be one of Microsoft's best and biggest Win2k early adopters as well. According to IBM VP of integrated solutions marketing Dick Sullivan, the company has already adopted Win2k as its company standard desktop OS, and intends to have it in place in the majority of IBM offices before the end of 2000. That's 300,000 seats, which positions IBM as virtually the ideal corporate customer for Microsoft. It's buying stacks, and is going for wholesale Win2k adoption earlier than most of the analysts and most major corporations think decent. Wait for Service Pack 1, did we hear? We'll get back to that. Aside from raising some interesting questions about why IBM should expect its own customers to buy, say, thin client solutions when IBM itself is buying something completely different, the accelerated rollout begs some questions about marketing alliances between MS and IBM. Is there a quid pro quo? Joint push on Win2k Pro An - ahem - entirely coincidental one, assuredly. Register sources say that IBM and Microsoft are to kick-off an intensive joint marketing programme for Win2k in February. Note that this will have been signed-off prior to Microsoft's announcement of the February rollout date, so it's clear that February has been fixed as the real target for some time. Which is how come Dell accidentally leaked it a while back (See story). Now, the interesting thing about the planned IBM-MS marketing push is that its aims seem to be a close match with those of IBM's own internal rollout, and views on initial markets for Win2k, as explained to us by Dick Sullivan. Our sources indicate that the campaign will be playing to Win2k's major strengths, which at the moment are largely at the client level. Sullivan meanwhile tells us that the IBM client rollout will not be matched by a server rollout. "The server side people are going to be cautious," he says. They'll quite possibly wait until Service Pack 2, and even then IBM isn't going to be exactly gagging to run its mission critical systems on Win2k. But a client push, both as a customer and a vendor, makes sense. Corporate customers have in the past few years been steered towards NT as the client OS of choice, but more recently the direction's been Win2k, and the protracted gestation period means there's plenty of pent-up demand, and plenty of upgrade programmes ready and waiting to be dusted down. Microsoft has also, you'll have noted in the past few months, made bullish predictions about upgrade levels (70 per cent of you will upgrade and made moves to turn off the air supply for NT Workstation by programming in early expiration dates for MS-approved qualifications (See story). There are also reasonable arguments that Win2k is a more stable and secure client OS, and on top of that there's the small matter of Win2k advanced features not being available on other MS operating systems. Basically, so long as it doesn't screw-up big-time, Microsoft can get an intensive upgrade wave going at client level. Stony ground for servers Server, on the other hand, is a different matter. Microsoft missed the Y2K upgrade boat by miles, corporate customers have spent money ahead of Y2K, and will largely be in lock-down mode through Q1 2000. After that they won't be spending heavily on servers, and will be far more likely to take a cautious approach to moving to Win2k server. In addition they've read the stuff about waiting for Service Pack 1, and they also know Microsoft has more Win2k server product scheduled for the middle of next year. So wait, wait - Microsoft won't rule the world via Win2k servers in H1 2000, and Microsoft knows that. Our sources suggest that Microsoft intends to roll out Win2k Professional first, then follow-up with server. We think that might turn out to be the effective truth, but it certainly won't look like that. Microsoft will shift a lot of client product in 2000 and not much server, but it'll be a question of focus rather than staggered rollouts. That said, we should bear in mind that a staggered rollout was once planned. Earlier this year when Microsoft started hinting at October, the intention was to launch Win2k Professional on 6th October and follow up with server later on. Aspects of this plan quite probably remain embedded in the latest strategy. We also hear that Microsoft has a cunning answer for the people who're going to be waiting for SP1 - ship it within 90 days of Win2k itself shipping. And actually, this isn't a particularly daft notion. While Win2k has been heading for RTM bit of code and features have been pulled, and there will be a sizeable initial wave of bugs to be fixed after the code's frozen. Some of these will be known before Win2k RTMs, but won't be fixed in order to make the schedule. There's nothing particularly new or nefarious in this, but effectively Microsoft will have the makings of a decent-sized service pack on the stocks by the time Win2k ship, so going to SP1 fast won't be difficult. But if Microsoft does go early, it will also mean a swift follow-up with SP2, to deal with the stuff that doesn't get fixed in time for SP1. ®

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