Gates 'pretty sure' Win 2000 on track

Hedging on a deadline set earlier by Microsoft, Bill Gates last week said he's "pretty sure" Windows 2000 can be delivered by the end of the year. Although some observers said they would wait for better quality, others said the operating system needs to face real-world usage now.

The Microsoft chairman's comments came at a conference of customers of Dell Computer being held here. Other Microsoft officials have called the year's end a set deadline, but "with quality as the top goal", delivering Windows 2000 by then depends on the feedback from customers currently testing the software, Gates said.

After hearing Gates' comments, analyst Michael Kwatinetz at Credit Suisse First Boston, predicted that Microsoft will officially launch Windows 2000 at Comdex in Las Vegas in November but won't ship the final product until early next year.

But the longer it takes for the final version to reach evaluation teams, the longer it will take for corporate users to plan the eventual rollouts, said analyst Rob Enderle at Giga Information Group. Deployments could therefore be delayed by as much as three months, he said.

"Sometime soon, Windows 2000 will reach the point where only real-world tests will identify problems," Enderle said. "I'm not convinced that further delays in shipping are going to result in a better product," he said.

"[Most evaluators] will be grabbing Windows 2000 as quickly as it comes out to get started on it," agreed analyst Sue Aldrich at Patricia Seybold Group. But because of stability problems in release candidate one, Windows 2000 needs more time in the shop, she said.

Robert Forbes, online technology manager at First Tennessee National Corp, said he would rather not see a buggy, bloated version of Windows 2000 this year. "If typical Microsoft holds true, [Windows 2000] will ship with lots of problems," Forbes said. "I'd much rather see [Microsoft] hold it back and see how tight they can get it and how much smaller they can get it."

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