RC3 Out, RTM Expected this Month

The final release candidate for Windows 2000 is in the hands of technical beta testers, and Microsoft Corp. is promising that the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version is around the corner.

Microsoft began distributing Windows 2000 Beta 3 Release Candidate 3 (RC3) Nov. 17, during Comdex Fall in Las Vegas.

Jim Allchin, senior vice president of business and enterprise at Microsoft, joked during a Comdex news conference about the anticipation of Windows 2000 and the unusually widespread familiarity with the technical terms of the product release cycle that Windows 2000 has generated.

"Everyone on the planet has probably heard about Release Candidate 3 and RTM," Allchin said.

Official company statements confirm an RTM is expected this month, with the Feb. 17 official launch date still firm.

"We feel incredibly good. Our target is Feb. 17. You can count on it; you can be there," Allchin said.

Other clues abound that the release is near. Earlier beta versions of Windows 2000 went to 650,000 testers, but RC3 is being restricted to a more limited subset of technical users.

As with previous release candidates 1 and 2, RC3 introduces no new features. "We’ve concentrated our efforts on product quality, performance, and bug fixes; and continue to do some final fit-and-finish work on RC3 -- simplifying error messages and dialog boxes and ensuring the overall quality of the product is up to customer standards," a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

She declined to discuss any significant features that have been dropped from Windows 2000 since RC2, saying: "The amount of fixes has decreased between each beta and between each release candidate, showing tremendous progress."

Many users are reporting that they are impressed with the stability of Windows 2000, but some testers are saying their bug submissions have been rebuffed as Microsoft locks down for gold code. Analyst house GartnerGroup (www.gartnergroup.com) predicts that a high volume of bug reports will follow the first service pack for Windows 2000, after IT shops have Y2K concerns out of the way and start to turn their attention to Windows 2000.

Microsoft executives are willing to talk about meeting the broad statistical goals of the beta program for production deployments.

Allchin says at Microsoft, at least 50,000 clients are running Windows 2000 and about 800 infrastructure servers are on the new OS. Among joint development customers and early adopters, about 22,000 desktops and 1,500 servers are deployed in production.

The company also is on target for the rigorous testing of 75 server and 450 client ISV applications that are the most commonly used in Windows NT environments, Allchin says. Similar requirements are in place for 5,000 devices and 4,000 systems on the hardware side.

RC3 covers three of the Windows 2000 iterations: Professional, Server, and Advanced Server. A fourth SKU, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, is on a different development cycle that should bring it to market in the second quarter of 2000.