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MS thumps tub for Win2k rollout

It's big in Philadelphia...

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Fashionwise, the big Win2k launch was a sports jacket event for the Microsoft stars, but there was an uneasy balance between formality and fun at the carefully scripted event in San Francisco. Some 5.000 people were present, which just happens to be the number of Microsoft staff involved in creating the $1 billion product (or possibly the $2 billion product - strange inflationary forces seem to be at work in MS presentations). The biggest launch party, however, was in Philadelphia, prompting a city councilman and a senator to introduce resolutions that the day be proclaimed "Windows 2000 day", for so it was. Gates was cited in a Microsoft press release as saying that "independent testing" by Ziff-Davis Labs showed that Windows 2000 had run for 90 "workdays" without a reboot, compared with just 2.1 days for Windows 95 and 5.2 days for Windows NT 4.0. But whatever the true facts, it is remarkable that Microsoft was prepared to admit officially just how bad earlier versions of Windows are. Nor would upgrading necessarily be easy, since in a CNBC interview, Gates agreed with Gartner, saying that "I think it's fair to say that one in four customers may have some issues as they move up...". The demos were intended to provide evidence of scalability, with one showing 35 Dell servers delivering 18,500 hits/second. There was another spoiler from Gartner, with analyst Alexa Bona noting in a Reuters interview that "There are probably less than ten people in the world who really understand [Microsoft's licence prices] - and that 's because they bury it deep in their terms and conditions and make it very difficult to understand." She also noted that the average cost of a client licence for large organisations was around $20 per user in the US, and £20 ($32.13) in the UK, and that users who might have previously just bought server licences for NetWare and Exchange would now have to buy client licences for Windows 2000 for £20 times the number of users on Exchange. Her parting shot was that "if you standardise on any dominant vendor you will find your negotiation leverage is very small." Nor is all well in Japan, where Win2k suffers from a Y2K-like problem: rather than display the current year as "2000", it gives "3999" in some circumstances, but Microsoft is refusing to recall copies and suggests people download a patch from its website and fix it themselves. Fujitsu is annoyed, especially as Microsoft had known about the bug since the beginning of the month. It is seeking "formal explanations" from Microsoft, since it was officially told on Thursday. The Japanese version will cost 16,800 yen ($153) when it is introduced today, with ten shops planning to have extended business hours, but with nothing like the fever of the Windows 95 launch. In Hong Kong, an upgrade will cost around HK$1,899 ($243), and the professional version HK$2,699 ($346). The US price is $149, and $599 for the server version. Probably the best prices for Windows 2000 are in Moscow, with 80 roubles ($2) being the norm. Of course, you don't get the clever edge-to-edge hologram, but nobody seems to care and there is wide-scale awareness that the copies are pirated. On the bug-count front, the 63,000 "defects" have been renamed "focus areas" by Windows supremo Jim Allchin, and many may just be performance issues or feature requests, he claimed. If so, it looks as though there's still much tuning to do, and many features that didn't make it. Amidst all the jollity of the launch, the rough stuff was being handled by Steve Ballmer. He is still incensed at Sun for "stirring the pot" with its European Commission Complaint, exacerbated by Scott McNealy's remark that Windows 2000 was too bulky and clunky to be of practical when the world needed "anywhere, anytime" computing. Ballmer announced at the launch that he will "go after" Sun with Windows 2000, and that Microsoft would have fun "taking market share". It was curious that the gregarious Ballmer confessed he had not spoken to McNealy for years, and would have a "hard time" chatting to him, and that "all they can do is lose". He continued: "They have no upside. They're on the downside of the shoe, baby." Sun responded that Microsoft technology doesn't cut it in the Internet world. ®

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