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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 01:35 GMT 02:35 UK

Business: The Economy

Y2K bug warning for software firms

Many old computer systems may crash on 1 January 2000

Leading software companies have been accused of failing to provide clear information on whether their products are millennium-compliant.

As a result, many of the UK's top firms have suffered "significant" delays in their fight against the millennium bug, says the campaign group, Action 2000.

Bugtown UK
Many older programs count years only by their last two digits, for example, 99 instead of 1999, and may stop working if they wrongly identify the year 2000 as 1900.

Only products that can handle data from 2000 onwards are "Y2K" or year 2000-compliant.

Don Cruickshank (Action 2000) and Mark Taylor (Microsoft) discuss the problem
Companies and governments around the world have spent millions of dollars on bringing their systems up to date. However, there are fears that many problems have not been identified, and could cause mayhem during the first weeks of the next year.

One reason why things could go wrong is a lack of information provided by manufacturers.

Changing information

According to a survey compiled by Action 2000, many businesses are worried by the fact that the information about the compliance status of key software packages keeps changing.

Among the programs singled out for criticism are:

  • Word 97
  • FileMaker Pro 4
  • Excel 95
  • Quickbooks 3
  • Outlook 98
  • Windows NT Site Server Enterprise 2

So far the organisation has identified 24 software products, where manufacturers have recently changed the information on the compliance status.

[ image: Don Cruickshank:
Don Cruickshank: "This is an alarming situation at this late stage"
The chairman of Action 2000, Don Cruickshank, said he was "concerned that businesses have been lulled into a false sense of security and that they are not being sufficiently prompted by manufacturers to recheck their software packages".

For the survey Action 2000 talked to more than 3,000 companies, to find out whether they had succesfully dealt with the millennium bug.

Among companies with more than 250 employees, 43% reported that software firms had suddenly downgraded their product compliance.

Among the UK's top 500 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, 40% reported that changes in the compliance status of software had caused significant delay to their Y2K preparations.

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