SAN FRANCISCO (03/17/2000) - A new high-end business PC should run the newest, most powerful operating system, right? But if your preference is Windows 2000, you may have to wait--particularly if you want a DVD-ROM drive.
One month after Microsoft Corp. unveiled the long-awaited operating system, many powerhouse PCs, surprisingly, don't yet offer it as an option.
Compaq Computer Corp., for example, is lagging in bundling Win 2000 on its most powerful systems. And several other desktops on PC World's most recent list of Top 10 Power PCs (or their slightly faster siblings) still come preloaded with Windows 98 Second Edition, not Windows 2000.
Consider Compaq's 750-MHz Compaq Prosignia Desktop 300--the top of that line, and the beefier sibling of the Prosignia on PC World's current Top 10 Power PCs. But you can't buy it with Windows 2000 preloaded, although less speedy members of the family offer that option.
Likewise, Gateway's GP7-800, a system 100 MHz faster than one rated as a current PC World Best Buy, still doesn't come with Windows 2000. And Micron's Millennia Max, gracing the Top 10 Power PCs list in a 733-MHz edition, is now available with an 800-MHz CPU but not with Windows 2000.
The Driver Dilemma
Lack of device drivers is the main culprit, with DVD drives often at the top of the list.
For example, if you're looking for a Dell system, all models are offered in a basic configuration, says Tad Druart, a Dell spokesperson. But you may have to do without DVD if you're looking to buy immediately. "This is a driver-related issue and Dell is working to get those models up and running Windows 2000 as well," he says.
It's a chicken-and-egg problem, says Jeff Tarter, editor of SoftLetter. "You can't create a driver until the hardware is finished," Tarter says. "A lot of hardware doesn't come to market until the operating system does."
"The world assumes that there's an operating system for Windows," Tarter notes.
"But there's an operating system for the Dell Dimension and the Compaq Presario. You can't take the CD you get with a Compaq and run it on a Dell. The vendor's versions are fine-tuned according to the individual PC."
Available for a Premium
To be sure, you'll find Windows 2000 preloaded on a number of systems, including some from Compaq, Gateway, and Micron. Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Midwest Micro, NEC, Siemens, Toshiba, and many other vendors also are selling Windows 2000 PCs.
In general, you can expect to pay about $100 more for a Win 2000 than a Windows 98 system.
If you still want Windows 2000, Tarter cautions that you'll be better off waiting for a machine on which it's already installed--even if you're confident you know how to upgrade from Windows 98.
"A retail version not a good idea," he says. "For most people, the only way you're going to get the best performance is to buy [Windows] preloaded. The general operating system creates problems because of its assumptions about what to do. You're never going to get quite the fine-tuning that goes on between the vendor and Microsoft."