Predictions for the New Millennium

Next yearprobably won’t be a banner year for Microsoft investors or employees, but 2001holds great promise for the company’s enterprise products to come into theirown. Here are my predictions for the coming year:

The yearof W2K deployment.Microsoft’s biggest accomplishment of 2000 was delivering its most stable andscalable operating system yet. The late February launch made it a tough sellfor this year. Lengthy Windows 2000 and Active Directory planning cyclescombined with IT’s commendably cautious approach to Microsoft product releasesmean Year 2000 deployments were the exception rather than the norm. That said,users snapped up the new business operating system at a rate that surprisedboth industry analysts and Microsoft.

Entering2001, IT has had a chance to experiment with Windows 2000 and get comfortablewith it. The first Windows 2000 Service Pack is out -- another major hurdleleft behind. The blockbuster bugs that often plague Microsoft products justhaven’t turned up. Finally, planning is under way, and momentum points towidespread Windows 2000 adoption in 2001.

Inroadsinto the enterprise data center.

In August,Microsoft produced its champion for the battle against Unix in the enterprisedata center. Windows 2000 Datacenter Server brings to the Wintel platform thecapability to scale to 32 processors and 64 GB of RAM in a single machine. Unixsystems still scale beyond those numbers, but not by so much anymore. Coupledwith the 32-processor CMP systems from Unisys Corp., Windows 2000 DatacenterServer makes the platform something to contend with for the first time.

Expect tosee Datacenter Server market acceptance pick up dramatically in 2001 as Compaqand Hewlett-Packard successfully resell the Unisys CMP systems.

Microsofthas a good story for the enterprise data center in 2001. Linux is cheaper butit can’t scale high enough for the data center. Unix systems never couldcompete on cost, and now the headroom gap between Unix and Windows isnarrowing.

SP3 willbe the big one. I thinkthe Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 will be the blockbuster Service Pack for theoperating system. Limited adoption before the first Service Pack meant fewpotential problems with the operating system had a chance to surface. EvenService Pack 2 will come out too early for major deployment problems to haveemerged. SP3, scheduled for release about 18 months after the Windows 2000 releasewill hit the sweet spot in terms of timing.

Where’sWhistler? Microsoft saysclient versions of Whistler, the Windows version that will unify the NT and 9.xcode bases, will ship in the second half of 2001 with server versions shortlyafter that. Microsoft’s track record tells me not to hold my breath.

64-bitWindows and Itanium.It’s looking like a little gap is emerging between when Intel will be ready todeliver its 64-bit Itanium processor and when Microsoft will be ready with a64-bit version of Windows. It will be fun to watch, but ultimately the gate on64-bit adoption will be how quickly developers write applications for the new64-bit systems.

Mobiledevelopment. Developingfor the Web is passé these days. For the next year most of what we’re going tobe hearing about is how to make applications available to wireless users. Willall Microsoft’s noise about .NET put the company in a good position to takeadvantage of that momentum? It’s hard to say anything conclusive about .NET.Microsoft’s been so elusive about the initiative that it’s way too soon totell.

Antitrustcase. Remember a fewmonths ago when Judge Jackson ordered Microsoft split in two? Remember all thepundits chastising Microsoft’s arrogant and foolhardy legal strategy? Last Iheard the case was still dragging through the courts, and Microsoft was stilloperating as one big company. It’s a waiting game now. The case should havelittle effect in 2001 on development and support of Microsoft’s enterpriseproducts.