Kearn's column: Microsoft making Y2K plans while Novell slips behind

Microsoft hasn't exactly gotten the best press over the past few months. There has been the Department of Justice jumping all over the company, court rulings on temporary employees, the Sun suit over the Java logo and the abortive attempt to seed articles and letters to the editor by paying or coercing people to write.

I've certainly been high-profile in beating up on the Redmond giant for its arrogance and lack of customer respect. At the same time, I've also been very kind to Novell -- frequently mentioning its new sense of purpose and direction under the guidance of CEO Eric Schmidt.

But with the moment of truth fast approaching for the Year 2000 problem, it appears the two software giants have switched attitudes.

Microsoft finally revealed its Y2K testing efforts a couple of weeks ago (Novell's had been known for a few months) about six weeks after the information had been promised.

Of course, Microsoft hasn't met a ship date in many years, so the delay is no surprise.

What is surprising is that Microsoft committed to testing (and fixing, if necessary) millennium bug problems in Windows 3.1x and Windows NT 3.51. Neither of the products is current technology, but evidently Gates and company realized there are many, many people still running them quite happily.

In a year and a half, when the Year 2000 problem strikes, both Microsoft products should be at least two revisions be-hind the shipping product. Yet the company is spending a fair amount of research and development money to ensure there are no surprises for customers come 1 January, 2000.

Contrast this with Novell's attitude. Not only will the company not supply fixes for any problems with NetWare 4.10, 3.11 or 2.2 (the not-quite-latest versions of its network operating system), but the company has announced it won't be releasing any information about Year 2000 impact on these versions.

It's possible that there are no problems, but unless you do the testing yourself, you'll never know.

It's not too late yet, Novell, but time is getting short. Thumbing your nose at loyal customers isn't the way to keep them in the family.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at

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