Microsoft will issue the third and final release candidate of Windows 2000, RC3, by mid-November before it ships code to manufacturing before the end of the year.
RC3 will be shipped only to several hundred to a few thousand of Microsoft's most strategic beta customers, rather than the roughly 750,000 who have been testing Windows 2000 Professional and Server versions for more than a year, said Craig Beilinson, lead product manager of the operating system.
"The goal of RC3 is to make sure we've really got the final buyoff before we release it to manufacturing," Beilinson said.
The version, which will be delivered to Microsoft's larger users in the early development and deployment programs, is the sixth prerelease version of Windows 2000 to be distributed. It will help Microsoft ensure that the changes it made based on feedback about RC2, which was released September 15, are stable. Beilinson declined to say what changes are in RC3, however.
"It's just continued clean up, moving toward [release to manufacturing]," said David Croweak, Windows 2000 project leader at Travelers Insurance, which expects to be among those that get RC3. IT managers at Prudential Insurance of America said they are also awaiting RC3 but declined to discuss it.
Joe Clabby, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, said RC3 is a crucial step for Microsoft in order to ship stable code.
"Microsoft has a huge vested interest in making sure that Windows 2000 does not fall on its face," he said. "This release is one of the most complex versions of NT that they have ever done. This is a huge quality assurance effort. I think it's prudent of them."
Clabby said he expects code to be released to manufacturing by the second week in December and shipped to the first users during the last week of the year.