The Seabiscuit of enterprise software

At the ripe old age of 4, Windows 2000 Server has hit middle age. With a hot rookie nipping at its tail (Windows Server 2003), the thoroughbred server operating system's days on the track are numbered.

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This week, Microsoft began telling customers that both Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server will start their end-of-life cycle April 1. That's no April Fools' joke. After that date, Redmond will no longer sell those versions of its flagship software through its sales channels. The plug gets pulled for mainstream support in the spring of 2005, and extended support will stop after March 31, 2007. After that, if you're still running...

Windows 2000 in your shop, you're on your own.

In software terms, it's still an eternity until Windows 2000 is euthanized. However, the pressure is now on for organizations to start thinking about committing to Windows Server 2003, a product that has gained a lot of attention in its first eight months of life, but few deployments. That should change now that Windows NT is in its death throes. It's likely that a lot of enterprises will skip Windows 2000 and go directly to Windows Server 2003, and some -- gasp -- may make the leap to Linux.

There's little surprise in Microsoft's announcement about Windows 2000. Since the software maker issued a general product life cycle schedule about a year ago that included information on this version of its OS, this week's news serves as more of a reminder than a revelation. It's also quite likely that Redmond will grant some leeway on its final support dates before Windows 2000 Server goes out to pasture.

Making the call on those dates will be Brian Valentine's newly empowered group. This week, Microsoft announced that the senior vice president will head its new Windows Core Operating System Division under a major reorganization of the platforms group. Valentine will have about 3,000 troops at his disposal to carry out the high-profile mission of bringing the client and server versions of Longhorn to fruition.

Many see this next generation of Windows as make-or-break time for Microsoft. With unprecedented competition in the form of enterprise Linux and pressure to deliver the product by early 2006, Valentine has the chance to be a hero or a goat. Only time will tell how he's painted in software history.

Virtual competition

EMC has joined Microsoft in the virtualization software business. On Monday, the data storage giant announced its bid to acquire VMware Inc., a popular maker of software that allows multiple operating systems to run on a single computer. The cash deal was worth $635 million. Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired virtual machine software assets from Connectix Corp.

After the EMC announcement, VMware's CEO was quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as saying that Microsoft came calling a year ago, but VMware shot down Redmond's bid. That's when Microsoft went after Connectix. For the record, a VMware spokesman told SearchWin2000.com that "both [Microsoft] and VMware have publicly said that there were talks and that we didn't come to terms. We haven't elaborated beyond that."

In an odd new alliance, Microsoft is teaming up with Eliot Spitzer, New York's junkyard dog of an attorney general, to go after spammers. Spitzer has made a name for himself going after mutual fund companies and others for shady business practices. Now he's turning his attention to purveyors of junk e-mail. On Thursday, he and Microsoft officials announced that they are suing Scott Richter, a guy they say is responsible for sending billions of unwanted e-mail messages to users in 35 countries.

Unlawful spam

The other government news on the spam front is that President Bush has made it official: Sending spam is now a federal crime. Bush on Tuesday signed a bill that prohibits people from spoofing e-mail addresses and using other deceptive practices to create mass mail. The law, which will supersede the patchwork of state antispam measures, will also allow the Federal Trade Commission to set up a "do not spam" list that mimics the popular consumer "do not call" list.

Finally, Microsoft has acted quickly to rid a key product of arguably history's ugliest symbol of hate: the swastika. When creating the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font for Office 2003, software developers at Microsoft unwittingly included the Nazi Party symbol from a Japanese font set they were using. After hearing of the discovery in Office, Microsoft swiftly released tools to let users remove the offensive symbol.

The swastika is an ancient symbol that means different things to different cultures. But since it was hijacked by the Nazis, the swastika has been justly relegated to the history books. And it certainly has no place in business-productivity applications.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Windows 2000 Server death watch begins

Reading the Windows reorg tea leaves

EMC, Microsoft lend credence to virtualization

Spitzer teams with Microsoft to fight spam

Microsoft to remove swastikas from software fonts

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