The release of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP desktop operating system
and all its hype has made for a tough act to follow, but it isn't
slowing the software maker as it forges ahead with the release of its
next big operating system, this time for servers.
The company will make available this month the third beta version of
the Windows .Net Server, the successor to Windows 2000, Microsoft's
server operating system that is just now beginning to gain acceptance
in the corporate market. Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software
Architect Bill Gates made the announcement during the opening keynote
at Comdex here Sunday.
Aside from a branding crisis that has left the server software without
a solid name -- morphing from its code name Whistler, to Windows 2002
Server, to its latest moniker Windows .Net Server -- Microsoft hasn't
done much to promote the new software compared to the multimillion
dollar campaign behind Windows XP.
Some analysts say Windows .Net hasn't attracted the same attention as
its desktop counterpart because there are few customers that will see
the need to upgrade. The operating system's release, expected in the
next six months according to company executives, comes just as
corporate customers struggle with the move to Windows 2000.
"It's clear from our survey data that users are still trying to adopt
Windows 2000," said Dan Kusnetzky, an operating systems analyst with
International Data Corp. "The more likely outcome is that Microsoft
will release Windows .Net, and companies will buy small quantities of
it for test purposes and continue with their Windows 2000 roll out."
Gartner Inc. analyst Tom Bittman wrote in a research note in June
that "the Windows .NET Server ... should be considered a branding
change, not a fundamental technology change."
Microsoft contends that Windows .Net is everything its predecessor is,
sharing the same operating system kernel, but one that will do a whole
lot more, mainly in regards to new technology built into the software
that will facilitate Microsoft's vision for building and distributing
XML (Extensible Markup Languages) Web services.
New features in Windows.Net address some of the issues that customers
have had with Windows 2000, according to Rob Enderle, an analyst with
Giga Information Group. Some improvements he noted include the ability
to maintain the software remotely and install it with less hassle. It
will also have the .Net Framework and the Passport authentication
service built in, enabling easy adoption as Microsoft unveils more .Net
Most importantly, Microsoft and Enderle say, Windows.Net will be a much
more secure operating system than its predecessors. Gates explained
Sunday how the new software will ship with all of its bells and
whistles turned off in the default settings.
"That has been a problem with previous products from Microsoft. The out-
of-the-box products had a bunch of holes," Enderle said. "The end
result was there were a number of breaches. Microsoft is now taking no
risks, and making it secure out of the box."
Windows 2000, for instances, was vulnerable to security breaches
because many of the more advanced features included with the server
operating system were activated from the minute the software was
installed on a system. Because customers often never used some of those
default features, it left the software vulnerable.
"In the past Microsoft has always chosen a balance point that was more
on the side of ease of use and less on the side of security," Kusnetzky
said, noting that the added features were intended to increase the ease
of use, but left the software open to security risks.