What If They Shipped an OS and Nobody Came?

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Event Summary

1/3/2000 [ZDNet]- Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system, scheduled to ship on February 17, 2000, presently only has six applications certified to run on the Professional version, and only one certified on the Server variation.

As the release of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 nears, the small number of available applications certified to run with the operating system is causing some IT managers concern. Today, only five applications are certified to run on Windows 2000 Professional, and only one on the Server version. While Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., say that number should grow to about 40 applications for Professional by the time the operating system ships on Feb. 17, that is still far fewer than certification programs for other operating systems.

Lack of certification does not mean an application will not run on Windows 2000. Certification, however, ensures a smooth transition to an application from previous versions, among other things. This is the first time Microsoft has instituted such a certification program for Windows, and some IT managers are stressing the importance of the issue when discussing migration.

Although testing has accelerated with the release to manufacturing of Win2K, the test labs at Microsoft certification partner VeriTest Inc. are reportedly jammed. In fact, Office 2000 is not yet certified.

Lotus Development Corp.'s office productivity suite, SmartSuite, will not be certified for Windows 2000 Professional because the certification process is too expensive, said a spokeswoman for the IBM subsidiary in Cambridge, Mass.

Market Impact

We consider this delay to be a moderate foul-up - not fatal, but not a non-issue. If only 40 applications are certified by ship date, that will put a damper on rapid acceptance of Win2K. The lack of certification for Office 2000 at this late date is puzzling, since Microsoft should theoretically be able to get their own, in-house, key application certified before such lesser players as Damgaard A/S's Axapta 3.0 ERP suite. This will provide a limited opportunity for Linux vendors to continue the war of words (See TEC News Analysis article: "OS SmackDown!"). If the dearth of apps lasts long enough - say, less than 500 by year-end - it will provide an opportunity for Linux vendors to get more applications certified on their OS, allowing them to make greater inroads.

Although Microsoft is trying to put its best face on this report, it can not be happy about this. After a delay of more than a year delivering Windows NT 5.0 (a/k/a Windows 2000), management must be wondering who dropped the ball on this one, too. This will certainly not be fatal to Redmond, but it will lose them "goodwill" from those customers who signed up early.

In the long term, the effects on Microsoft will depend on whether Linux forces can exploit this to their greatest advantage. The major concern with changing from Windows-of-whatever-flavor to Linux is whether the necessary applications are available. If the "Linux" community does not exploit this opportunity, it is unlikely Microsoft will let them get a second chance. One other potential exploiter of this is Sun, but we do not see them as being as great a threat in the desktop space as Linux.

User Recommendations

For those users relying on "Windows 2000 certified" applications for critical operations - keep your fingers crossed that the people at VeriTest work faster than anyone expects. For those users committed to Win2K, but not requiring "certified" applications, you can proceed as planned, as long as you understand the risks associated with running applications which may not gain their certification soon, if at all.

Users requiring Windows 2000 Server certified applications will need to wait a little longer, and we recommend delaying the upgrade to Win2K Server for three to six months.

For users looking for an excuse to consider operating systems other than Windows, now is as good a time as any to check out Linux, Solaris or Unix .

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