Filling Out the W2K Checklist

There’sbeen much speculation that the transition from Windows NT to Windows 2000 isprogressing slowly. Microsoft says that through June it shipped 3 millioncopies of Windows 2000. If that trend line is continuing unchanged, the numbershould have approached 6 million copies by the end of September. While thisdoesn’t account for a majority of combined Windows NT and Windows 2000shipments, this trajectory suggests that by year end Windows 2000 will accountfor better than one out of two shipments of combined Windows NT and Windows2000, including client and server licenses.

Thesenumbers will likely move upward as Microsoft gets data back from true-upstaking place at Enterprise Agreement sites. Given the nature of the Windows NTto Windows 2000 transition, the significant resource requirements of Windows2000, and the market space where both Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000Professional platforms fit, the uptake seems to be doing just fine. Better, infact, than the estimates IDC published prior to launch of the product.

But onepoint that may seem obvious to you and me -- that most companies were not goingto rush into Windows 2000 any faster than they were ready to -- seems to havebeen missed by some in the financial community. At Microsoft’s quarterlyfinancial briefings, the question keeps coming up: Why the slow uptake?

Perhapsthat perception is reinforced by the incorrect assumption that there are noapplications that run on Windows 2000. The truth is that there are lots ofapplications compatible with Windows 2000 -- on both client or server systems.Anyone who tested or deployed Windows 2000 quickly found out that mostapplications run just fine on the new operating system. For applications thatdid not, the issue wasn’t likely an application compatibility problem, butrather an issue over how the application installed itself. Applications thatlook for Service Pack 3 or higher as a prerequisite for installation, forinstance, would fail if they found no Service Packs installed. Likewise,installers that replaced system DLLs may be foiled by Windows 2000’s systemfile protection. This causes an application to fail upon the first reboot afterthe installation.

Still,there was a thread of truth behind the lack-of-applications issue. There is adearth of applications that truly exploit Windows 2000. As of late August,there were only 130 certified apps for use with Windows 2000, and another 400in the queue. This is out of the estimated 10,000 Windows applications that areavailable.

Thescenario is a traditional chicken-and-egg problem. There’s little need to rushout and pay for applications that exploit Windows 2000 when there’s no criticalmass of Windows 2000 systems on which to run them, then again it’s equally hardto justify building a Windows 2000 infrastructure when your killer applicationcan’t gain any benefit from using it.

Theclincher was that Microsoft had not released any Windows 2000-enabled serverapplications. After all, if Microsoft couldn’t get applications out the doorthat truly exploited Windows 2000, who could?

But nowthat Microsoft’s Enterprise 2000 launch is done and over with, the last majorstep of the protracted Windows 2000 roll-out is complete. It couldn't have comesoon enough for Microsoft.

Now what?The likely answer is that users will continue to get more serious about Windows2000 adoption. The studies I have been involved with suggest that users havebeen waiting for the resolution of three or four major concerns before gettingserious about Windows 2000 adoption. Among those “check boxes” was confirmationthat Windows 2000 can be stable and not get hacked or cracked for at least sixmonths -- check, as of August 17; release of the first Service Pack -- check,as of July 31; no bad user problems reported -- check; and availability ofapplications that can exploit the operating system -- check, finally.

Does thismean users will now rush out and immediately upgrade to Windows 2000? Of coursenot, that’s not how this market space adopts new technology. Companies willcontinue to amortize existing investments in hardware and software --regardless of how sexy the new products may be -- until business needs indicateit’s time to upgrade. If I had any doubts about the truth of this statement,I’m reminded each and every morning of its validity when I boot up myone-year-old, Windows 2000-capable, corporate-issue laptop only to load and runWindows 95 and Office 97. --Al Gillen isresearch manager for system software at IDC ( and former editor in chief ofENT. Contact him at

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