REDMOND, WASH. (04/21/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has relented to customer demands and will include key LAN functionality in the forthcoming release of Windows Millennium Edition (Me).
But Microsoft is unsure if it will supply an Active Directory client with Windows Me - a consumer product, which analysts say could find its way into corporations. Customers and analysts alike say it is critical to have a directory client so users can reap the security and user management benefits of Active Directory, an important piece of Windows 2000 server.
In March, Microsoft raised the ire of customers when it confirmed it had stripped from Windows Me the software required to connect the operating system to NetWare or Banyan (now called ePresence) file servers, but left the client needed to connect to Windows NT servers. Microsoft also said Me would not have Active Directory support.
Without the directory client, users will not be able to connect to Win 2000's directory. Microsoft has already announced an Active Directory client for Windows 95 and 98.
"If Microsoft wants Active Directory to be at the center of its all-Internetwide platform, Me better have a client for the directory," says Juan Mota, manager of system integration for Excell Agent Services, a call center in Phoenix. Mota and other enterprise users who are committed to Windows 95 and 98 for telecommuters were shocked to find they would lose the ability to integrate Windows Me, the successor to 98, with their heterogeneous networks"With Active Directory, we can manage our customers and users much better, and if Me can't talk to the directory, we go back to the old user name and password, and all those security concerns," he says.
Analysts agree that Microsoft must address this issue.
"There will be an Active Directory client for Windows 9.X, and indeed it may run on Me. However, what we are looking for from Microsoft is an explicit commitment that they will support this configuration," says Neil MacDonald, an analyst with the Gartner Group, which first brought the Me issue to light.
Microsoft continues to hedge, but, "We're continuing to look at providing an Active Directory client for Windows Me, but a final decision has yet to be made," says Shawn Sanford, group product manager for the Windows division.
In response to customer pleas, Microsoft returned LAN features to the third beta release of Me that was issued just two weeks ago, Sanford says. The final version is expected to ship in June.
Microsoft will include a NetWare client, and Novell is developing one as well.
But Microsoft will not include software that supports the installation of an ePresence client.
Gartner's MacDonald says with a network and Active Directory client, there is no technical reason why Me can't be used on corporate nets. But he warned enterprise users that Me only delays by a couple of years the inevitable need to upgrade applications and hardware to support Win 2000.