The Debut of Windows 2000

Suppose they gave a war but nobody came? The Windows 2000’s coming out party held just after Valentines Day in San Francisco came off almost as an afterthought. Although over 20,000 attendees were expected, actual turnout was barely a fraction of that. There were few if any vendor bashes that usually accompany breakout events. The headline was Michael Dell backtracking on his previous week’s lukewarm comments on W2K, which triggered a run on Microsoft stock.

Like any Microsoft operating system, Windows 2000 has huge promise to fulfill. And if W2K ever delivers on the promises of scalability, reliability, Intellimirror desktop control, Active Directory, hot plug and play, and other features, that would do wonders for TCO. But getting there will be most of the “fun.” Gartner Group’s predictions that 25% of existing Windows applications having problems making the transition are probably conservative, as previous experience going from 16- to 32-bit Windows demonstrated.

Take the scalability issue. Dell says it’s comfortable running its web site on clusters, while Data General, IBM and others believe that the high end will be best served by grander parallel architectures. Significantly, Compaq, which otherwise boasts a highly diverse line of platforms, was caught flatfooted having to have an answer for an environment—Windows 2000 Data Center edition—which doesn’t yet exist. Although Compaq promises a new high-end architecture redolent of the old Thinking Machines design by 2001, it felt compelled to OEM 32-way machines from Unisys as a bridge strategy just in case W2K Data Center comes out before then.

No wonder W2K show turnout was so light. IT users are scared of the future, while the major PC platform vendors are sending mixed signals on where W2K will initially play strongest, when sales will outpace NT 4, and, in the long run, what’s the most cost-effective way to scale. Better let the experts duke it out before committing real IT bucks.

Unlike Windows 95, 2000 promises real features that could generate TCO breakthroughs. But for now they’re just promises.