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The BBC's John Moylan
"No expense will be spared on the launch"
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Software expert Barry Fox
"I wouldn't load it on my computer"
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Bill Gates speaks to the BBC
"This is a breakthrough product"
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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 19:43 GMT
Doors open on Windows 2000
Bill Gates at Windows 2000 product launch
Bill Gates: "There's no doubt that over the next couple of years all the business desktops will move to Windows 2000."
After three years of development work and a $1bn investment, Microsoft has unveiled Windows 2000, its new operating system for computers.
Windows 2000 box
Microsoft is promising that Windows 2000 will be faster and more reliable than any previous operating system released by the company.

Have you used Windows 2000?
Click here to tell us your experiences

However, experts warn that Windows 2000 may be slow to find customers.

Windows 2000 is a bet-the-ranch product for Microsoft

John Connors, Microsoft executive
The release of the Windows software has been billed as the most important product launch in Microsoft's 25-year history.

It is the first step in a complete overhaul of the company's strategy, with a firm focus on the internet.

"In terms of Microsoft's continued growth, it's very important because it needs to take market share in the server area away from the other companies," says Jerry Sanders, editor of PC Insider.

The name Windows 2000, though, is misleading. The program is not an upgrade to the popular Windows 95 and 98, but replaces the industrial-strength operating system Windows NT.
Windows 2000 Professional
Designed for
business users,
web servers,
network applications
requires 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU
at least 64 megabytes of RAM; more memory improves speed
2 gigabytes hard disk with at least 650MB of free space.

Source: Microsoft

To drive home the point, the product will be called Windows 2000 Professional.

Microsoft's new chief executive, Steve Ballmer, said the programme would proof its worth when it gets to the customer: "Customers that have used the product have been incredibly happy, so I'm feeling that we're doing what we hoped to do."

In fact, Windows 2000 is a family of four different operating systems, one for desktop PCs, and versions for use on internet, network and database servers, with prices ranging from 100 for an upgrade from NT to 3,185 for the advanced server version for 25 users.

Windows Me

Consumers are advised to wait for the release of Windows Me - the Windows Millennium Edition - which is expected to hit the market this summer.

Windows Me, though, is a symptom of all that has gone wrong with Microsoft's strategy for operating systems.

The launch of Windows 2000 is one year late, and fails to deliver on the original promise that it would replace those versions of Windows that still rely on the code of the original MS-DOS operating system dating back to 1981.

That has not happened, and Windows Me will be yet another upgrade of the old Win95/DOS family of programs.

The big bet
Install Windows 2000 if you...
... are a business user
... use up-to-date software
... have high-spec computers
... establish a new web business
Nonetheless, Windows 2000 Professional could become the most important piece of software in Microsoft's history.

"It's a good time to be launching the product because Microsoft needs to generate churn," says Jerry Sanders.

"In order to continue pulling in revenues it has to replace products that you already have and the only way to do that it to introduce new products. Windows NT has really run its course."

The world's largest software company has certainly spared no expense. Some $500m will be spent on marketing alone and the development phase involved 750,000 beta testers. Microsoft clearly wants to get it right the first time.

Microsoft is selling Windows 2000 as the "ideal platform for the next generation of business computing" for "laptops and desktops to high-end, clustered servers".
Don't install Windows 2000 if you...
... want to play computer games
... rely on 'old' software
... are not computer savvy
... your computer is not state-of-the-art.
It will help organisations to "internet-enable" their businesses, and promises to deliver a reliable, manageable e-commerce infrastructure.

Microsoft is particularly eager to point out the system's scalability - that it is able to cope if a company sees its business grow quickly.

As software was launched, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates promised that Windows would be "dramatically more reliable" than other programs released by the company.

There is trouble ahead

Windows 2000 is designed for business users. Therefore the launch is unlikely to see customers queuing outside computer stores at midnight to get the first copies.

Windows 2000 is the most reliable, highest-performing operating system in our company's history and provides a platform to support customers' stringent needs for high system availability.

Jim Allchin, Microsoft
But the corporate take-up may be slow as well. Many companies are still recovering from the massive investment to beat the millennium bug. They may be reluctant to upgrade their brand-new systems.

Michael Dell, the founder of the world's largest direct seller of PCs, recently noted that corporate customers appeared to be in no rush to upgrade their hardware for Windows 2000.

Computer market analysts at IDC believe that Windows 2000 will "ultimately see widespread use", but say that companies will be slow to introduce it.

Microsoft, though, is optimistic and predicts that "one in four of the UK's top 3,500 organisations will be rolling out Windows 2000 in the year 2000".

Bug worries

One reason for the reluctance to embrace Windows 2000 is Microsoft's history of troublesome product launches.
Win 2000 event viewer
Windows 2000 promises to contain errors and make computer crashes a thing of the past
IT administrators are averse to buying version 1.0 of any software, and Microsoft's operating systems are notorious for being bug-prone.

Trade publication Smart Reseller recently quoted an internal Microsoft memo that seemed to suggest that Windows 2000 could contain 63,000 possible defects.

Microsoft had to release a software patch to address a security issue even before Windows 2000 was released.

IT consultancy, Gartner Group, has repeatedly warned its customers not to buy Windows 2000 before June, when they expect the release of the first "service pack" - patching or fixing the errors found in the software during the first few months.

The server battle
Bill Gates
Bill Gates hopes that Windows 2000 will extend Microsoft's reach to the high-end server market
But even if Windows 2000 takes a while to find its way onto PC desktops, Microsoft won't be worried, because here it is already dominant.

The software giant from Seattle has set its sights on the much more important market for high-end servers, where competitors like Unix, Novell and Sun rule the roost.

E-commerce target

Many companies will continue to rely on the tried and tested operating systems supplied by Microsoft's rivals. Bill Gates' hope is that he can persuade young e-commerce companies to start life with them.

Windows 2000 may help Microsoft to tighten its grip on the desktop market. If the software delivers on its grand promise, the server market may be the next to be dominated from the software giant's headquarters in Seattle.

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See also:

16 Feb 00 | Business
Windows 2000: Special report
16 Feb 00 | Business
Review: Windows 2000
16 Feb 00 | Business
The software superpower
16 Feb 00 | Business
Apple - back to the future
16 Feb 00 | Business
Linux - Microsoft's new nightmare
09 Feb 00 | Business
EU probes Windows
14 Jan 00 | Business
Q&A: Gates steps down
14 Jan 00 | Business
Microsoft's next move
26 Jan 00 | Business
Court blow for Microsoft
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