Kearns' column: Win 2000 Expo: I'd rather have been fishing

Since breaking into the network business 15 years ago, I've attended many a trade show. NetWorld, Interop, NetWorld+Interop, Comdex, BrainShare, TechEd and numerous smaller shows that come and go as times change (remember Network Expo?). Without a doubt, though, the recent Windows 2000 Expo was one I could easily have skipped.

Whether it was because of the long delay in shipping Win 2000 or the huge amount of "pre-marketing" Microsoft has done over the past year or two, attendees didn't have that same excited anticipation I'd seen for other product launches, such as Windows 95 or NetWare 5. The general attitude among show-goers I spoke to was relief that the long wait was over, coupled with a tentative commitment to upgrade.

No one I spoke to was determined to head home to upgrade their NT 4 servers (or their NetWare servers) to Windows 2000 Server or Advanced Server. Most, though, would gear up to install Windows 2000 Professional as an upgrade to Windows 95/98 systems, but even this would slowly be implemented over the next six to 12 months.

The vendors appeared to have a similar reaction. Although most showed Win 2000 versions of their products, they hedged their bets by also promoting NT 4 versions or upgrades to the older Microsoft operating system. Sunbelt Software's Stu Sjouwerman, for example, promoted new utilities for NT 4 and promised a Win 2000 version in the second quarter of this year. (See this week's Fusion Focus on Windows Networking newsletter for more on the product - www. nwfusion.com/focus/).

In fact, it was only the migration specialists (such as Mission Critical and FastLane) that appeared to have any hope that people would quickly move to Win 2000. In light of what most industry pundits - and even firm friends of Bill - were saying, it could be mid- to late 2001 before Win 2000 servers outnumbered NT 4 servers in the enterprise.

None of this is good news for Microsoft or the industry. Sales of Win 2000 and associated products over the next six months could lead to the investment community turning a jaundiced eye to lowered sales and profits throughout the hardware and software business, and fuel a sell-off in the already teetering stock market.

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

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