Microsoft OKs Final Version Of Windows 2000

After three and a half years of development, an estimated billion dollars of investment, and intense customer scrutiny, Microsoft today signed off on the final code for its Windows 2000 operating system.

The company released Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server to manufacturing, which means Microsoft plants will start churning out CD-ROMs and manuals, and computer systems vendors have the code in their hands for installation on their products. The official launch date for the product remains Feb. 17, when customers will actually receive Windows 2000 for use. In a conference call with reporters today, Microsoft executives expressed relief at putting the grueling project to bed, while maintaining there was more work ahead to spur broad adoption of the product.

"It's been quite a journey--a three-and-a-half-year journey," said Microsoft group VP Jim Allchin. "We promised customers we wouldn't ship Windows 2000 until they said it was ready. It is the highest performing, most reliable platform in Microsoft's history."

Microsoft's hundred closest original equipment manufacturer partners and customers were putting the operating system through its final paces at the vendor's Redmond, Wash., campus as late as Monday, said Windows division senior VP Brian Valentine. In the end, all 100 voted to ship. "It took us a while to get here, but we said we wouldn't ship the product until it was ready, and we stood our ground," Valentine said. Microsoft executives said the company identified four design goals in 1996 when it began crafting the successor to Windows NT 4: building a more reliable server; lowering cost of ownership for customers; blending the security of Windows NT with broader application and device support; and building an operating system geared toward companies doing business over the Internet. The company says it's finally met or exceeded those yardsticks. Allchin estimates the entire undertaking cost Microsoft roughly $1 billion, but he says he doesn't know the actual number. As a guideline, Allchin says the company spent $160 million on reliability improvements alone.

As the code makes its way to manufacturing plants, Microsoft VP of Windows marketing Deborah Willingham cautions the company still has work to do to put the software in customers' hands. "There's a misperception that a customers' entire computing infrastructure needs to be converted to Windows 2000 immediately to see improvements," she says. In fact, they can upgrade desktops and servers incrementally and see improvements, she said.

To get the message out, Microsoft plans a "large" six- to nine-month print-advertising campaign aimed at IT professionals beginning on the Feb. 17 launch date, Willingham said.

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