Look for Windows 2000 SP1 around June

Early reports are saying Windows 2000 is a stable operating system, but many analysts recommend waiting at least until Microsoft Corp. issues its first Service Pack before deployment. So how long will that be?

Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) wouldn’t confirm a date, but industry observers familiar with Redmond’s schedules expect the first Service Pack to take longer to come out than Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows NT 4.0 did. After the ice is broken, they expect subsequent service packs to ship on a fairly regular schedule.

John Enck, an analyst with GartnerGroup (www.gartner.com), expects the first Windows 2000 service pack to arrive in June. By comparison, Windows NT 4.0 had a quicker delivery of Service Packs. The base operating system was released in November 1996, with SP1 following a month later in December and SP2 coming out in January 1997. Quality control with NT 4.0 SP2 was particularly notorious, and the quick pace of Service Pack releases may not be something Microsoft wants to repeat.

Brian Komar, a training executive with Microsoft who specializes in Service Packs, says Windows 2000 Service Packs will be regular releases that do not contain new functionality but concentrate on fixing problems. Microsoft shifted to that strategy with Windows NT 4.0's SP5 in early 1999.

According to an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com), Microsoft will also issue point releases of Windows 2000 after SP2. There will be two separate tracks for Windows 2000, one continuing from the original release, and one branching off from the first point release.

Microsoft plans to issue point releases every 18 months, Gartner’s Enck says. The Windows 2000 point releases will be more frequent, but with less drastic, updates than the upgrade from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. The updates in the point releases will more closely resemble the type of updates made from Windows 95 to Windows 98.

One of the most significant features that will be included in Windows 2000 Service Packs is slipstreaming functionality. With Windows NT 4.0, users have to perform an install of the original release before installing each Service Pack. With slipstreaming, the user installs the initial release of Windows 2000 once, then creates a file share and copies the original install file.

The user can overwrite the original install with each Service Pack's install file, and then perform an install that will overwrite the original version of Windows 2000 and provide an updated version. This feature will save users hours and could lead to more universal adoption of the Service Pack updates and point releases to come.