December 20, 2000, 2:15 PM — In a roundabout way, IT executives may have gotten a gift from Microsoft last week when the company confirmed that Windows 2000 will not be generally available until early next year.
The software giant says the long-delayed operating system, which Microsoft hopes will elevate the company's standing in large enterprises, will ship on Feb. 17, 2000.
Later this month or in early December, Microsoft plans to release the "gold," or final, code to manufacturing.
The timing of the general release means most IT staffs should be able to wrap up the bulk of their Year 2000 compliance work before diving into another exhausting project. Windows 2000 includes a slate of challenging technologies, including Active Directory, IntelliMirror and Kerberos.
"Now that Microsoft has said February, my clients are shelving Windows 2000 projects. There is not much more testing they can do," says John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group in Phoenix. "When they heard February it was almost a sense of relief."
Although few outside Microsoft's Joint Development or Rapid Deployment programs will deploy the software when it ships, many users can finally begin performance testing on the real operating system.
Microsoft will use International Data Group's Windows 2000 Conference and Expo, which runs Feb. 15 to 17 at San Francisco's Moscone Center, to launch the operating system. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president, will give a keynote address.
Windows 2000 has been wracked by numerous delays since Microsoft three years ago released the first alpha code of what was then called NT 5.0.
"We are at the point where we feel comfortable with the bits for Windows 2000," says Craig Beilinson, product manager for Windows 2000. "We are pleased to put this stake in the ground."
The February release will include Windows 2000 Professional, the desktop version of the software, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. The high-end DataCenter version is expected to ship in June 2000.
Exchange users will get the newest version of that server -- Exchange 2000 -- in May 2000.