A Thousand Apps

Microsoft Corp. is predicting about 1,000 applications will launch with the official rollout of Windows 2000 in February. It sounds like a huge number, but what does it mean?

The 1,000 applications forecast came from Jeff Raikes, group vice president for sales and support at Microsoft (see story on page 1). His remark, however, was short on details.

We can assume he’s talking about applications that are Windows 2000 Ready, not Windows 2000 Certified.

The distinction is old news, but if you’re anything like me you don’t have the differences memorized. Windows 2000 Certified means VeriTest (www.veritest.com) has tested an application on Windows 2000 and found that it takes advantage of a number of the upgrade’s new features. For Windows 2000 Professional, those include Windows Installer and system rollback. Microsoft recently dropped Windows Installer as a requirement in Windows 2000 Server certification testing. Those tests are just ramping up for Windows 2000 Professional. The server-side test isn’t expected to start until mid-December.

The testing approach is a change from Microsoft’s previous logo program. For Windows NT, Microsoft was lenient with the "Designed for Windows NT" logo, using the program as a means to highlight the number of applications available on Windows NT. For Windows 2000, Microsoft is reining in logo use to reflect applications that have undergone rigorous testing. Officially, Microsoft is saying that only 100 to 125 applications will be certified by June.

Windows 2000 Ready means the vendor has tested the application itself on Windows 2000, and it runs. Microsoft also maintains another category for applications, Windows 2000 Planned. This is a broad category for third-party applications that haven’t been self-tested for Windows 2000, but will be.

A number like 1,000 applications is meaningless without detail. A blind search of Microsoft’s Windows 2000 application site (www.microsoft.com/windows/server/deploy/compatible/default.asp) yields results such as 2,875 products for Windows 2000 Server and 5,746 products for Windows 2000 Professional. Drilling into the actual listings reveal that most of those applications fall into the Planned category, and many are different language versions of a single application. What at first glance seemed like significant numbers has quickly vaporized.

A little context is also helpful. Part of Windows NT’s market acceptance has depended on its stable of compatible applications. Year-old literature on Microsoft’s Web site indicates that about 4,000 applications run on Windows NT Server, and that another 650 integrate with the operating system’s directory and security features. Estimates for the number of applications that currently run on Windows NT Workstation runs into the tens of thousands. Windows 2000 will need to approach these numbers quickly.

Statements like Raikes’ are supposed to address concerns that Microsoft won’t have enough applications available to justify moving to Windows 2000 when it hits the streets.

The urgency of the issue runs to both extremes. For the desktop, it’s incredibly urgent. As soon as Windows 2000 Professional comes out in February, OEMs will be shipping systems with the OS preloaded. If the applications your business uses don’t run on Windows 2000, it’s going to be a big problem for users with new systems.

These 1,000 applications that will accompany the Windows 2000 launch has a nice ring to it. But my guess is that Microsoft needs to have several times that many ready to roll out in the months right after the launch for Windows 2000 Professional to have much behind it.

For Windows 2000 Server, immediate deployment isn’t as much of an issue. It will take months or years for Windows 2000 Server to make major inroads, and applications can trickle out if necessary. Hints from Microsoft are that the kinds of Active Directory integration that applications will need to really scream within Windows 2000 are years away.

Moving up the food chain into Windows 2000 Server and even more so into Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the number of Ready or Certified apps becomes less important than which applications are covered.