Article

Users to Microsoft: Too much too soon

By Edward Hurley, Assistant News Editor

While Microsoft readies its new .NET server product and monitors sales of Windows XP, many of its customers are saying not so fast. They're still deploying and learning Windows 2000.

A recent informal survey found few were jumping feet first into XP, Microsoft's newest desktop operating system, and some are just now dabbling with the betas for its latest server OS dubbed .NET Server.

"We haven't even finished rolling out (Windows) 2000 (and I'll bet that's true for most large companies)," said Joe Keegan, a New York-based NT administrator. "What are they thinking, rolling out something new, when Windows 2000 is still in its infancy?"

Microsoft released Windows 2000 in Feb. 2000 to replace Windows NT. XP, released in October, is slated to ultimately replace Windows 2000 on the desktop while .NET Server will be for servers.

Now the Redmond giant's mind is on building a .NET world, one in which Web services take center stage. Much of the new features of functions of XP and .NET Server play right into Microsoft's push. Yet most users are more concerned with less lofty goals for their operating systems.

In fact, the most popular uses for Windows servers are for print and file serving and messaging, said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. Windows NT 4.0 and even NT 3.51 are adequate for such uses, he said. As such, many shops are just now deploying Windows 2000 or have pilot projects with it.

"IT professionals have the approach

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that if it's not broke, don't fix it," Kusnetzky said.

Many of the unique features of Windows XP are probably not what a lot of IT professionals are looking for. Making movies and being able to login to multiple Web sites at once is probably something they would want to block, Kusnetzky said. Such user experience features are a major marketing push of XP to users though businesses tend to worry more about reliability (both XP and Windows 2000 are based on the more reliable NT kernel).

On the desktop side, supporting XP (and all its new features) can offer more challenges than benefits, said Pat Oblander, network administrator for Shawnee County in Kansas. To keep systems running for non-technical users, a lot of configurable features are disabled. "Since the biggest selling point of XP is an enriched user 'experience' we don't see a need for features we are going to lock out anyway.

"We live or die on reliability not features," Oblander added.

Microsoft introduced XP less than two years after Windows 2000. .NET Server, the upgraded server version of Windows 2000, is slated for release in the first half of next year. The company wants its feet planted firmly in the Web services arena with the introduction of new products geared towards it. But users are perhaps not so quick to take the Web services plunge.

"I am not considering the .NET servers yet, and I won't until they stop selling Windows 2000," Keegan said. "What's the incentive to upgrade?"

Pricing implications

The incentive is keeping volume discounts. Microsoft has instituted a new licensing plan that will increase prices for some companies between 33% and 107%, Gartner Group estimates.

The lifecycle of Windows 2000 will likely be shorter than for previous versions of Windows, Kusnetzky said. The problem is the licensing agreement actually forces users into a painful decision of either losing the discount, upgrading -- perhaps prematurely -- to keep the discount or scrapping Windows technology all together.

But finding alternatives to Windows, especially on the desktop, is not easy given the dominance of Microsoft Office.

Connie Eaton, with the IT department of Seattle-based GM Nameplate, said her company has tried Star Office and Corel Suite running on Linux, which already powers its Web site.

But running Linux or even Unix on the desktop may not be practical. "Linux isn't friendly enough to roll out to users, and I can't afford SPARC stations at every desktop, so (Microsoft) it is," Keegan said.

Opportunities for Linux on the server side for uses such as proxy server, Web server and firewall applications. "(Linux) has always been strong and capable, but just not friendly enough," said David Wertman, president of Web Champs. "Well, that funny looking little bird is getting cuddlier and friendlier all of the time."

See these Best Web Links for more information on Windows XP

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