For over two years now, I've charted the development of Windows 2000 from its roots as a decent upgrade to Windows NT 4.0 to its current status as ?ber operating system. Given the massive development time of Windows 2000, it's probably useful to take a look at all of the changes that have occurred over this time and understand how this OS came to be what it is.

Planning sessions for Windows NT 5.0 (as it was known at the time) began right after the release of Windows NT 4.0 in the summer of 1996. At the time, Microsoft had vague ideas about how it was going to handle future updates to the Windows NT, which was previously augmented by a series of Services Packs (SPs), which fixed bugs and added new functionality. At the time of NT 4.0's release, Windows NT 3.51 had had four SPs, with a fifth forthcoming. Service Packs were made available via floppy and CD-ROM installs, and from Microsoft's support BBS and FTP sites. For Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft eventually settled on a system where new features were added in Option Packs (though only one was ever released for NT 4; it included Internet Information Server 4.0 \[IIS4\], updated data components, Transaction Server 2.0, and some other features) while Service Packs were destined to include only bug fixes. Microsoft never really lived up to this promise in NT 4.0, of course, but the rapid success of NT 4.0 caused them to release a large number of SPs and individual hot-fixes. A seventh SP release is due in early 2000.

Something humorous to consider: The first projected release date of NT 5.0 was late 1997. Seriously. But before that could happen, Windows NT 5.0 would need to correct some of the glaring problems with Windows NT 4.0: It would have to include a "true" directory service that did away with the limitations of Microsoft's proprietary domain model. It would have to support Plug and Play and work with all of the latest hardware. It would require fewer reboots and would be easier to use, though NT was already much, much easier to use than its nearest competitors, Novell Netware and the various flavors of UNIX. It needed to support FAT32, the file system that was introduced in Windows 95 OSR-2. And NT 5.0 would run on Alpha and Intel platforms, though Alpha support was eventually dropped in late 1999, after two years of work. A 64-bit version for Alpha was also in development, beginning in late 1997.

One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that the world of 1996 was very different than that of today: Linux was a simple grass roots OS that only ran on select Intel hardware and had a very small user base, the Internet was just starting to take off (NT 4.0 shipped with the lame IE 2.0, while IE 3.0 was released only a month later, in August 1996), and Microsoft's networking solutions still revolved around a non-routable technology called NetBEUI, not TCP/IP, the Internet standard. Over the course of time, Microsoft would address these issues and more, and adapt what would become Windows 2000 to face the changing world.

So let's go back through the mists of time and review the long and seemingly never-ending story that is the development of Windows 2000...

1997: Windows NT 5.0 Beta 1
In early 1997, Microsoft began preparing a beta version of its Directory Services Toolkit for Windows NT 4.0, which previewed Active Directory for early adopters and developers. It also informed partners that NT 5.0 would not ship until early 1998 and that the first widespread beta release, Windows NT 5.0 Beta 1, would not be ready until Summer 1997 at the earliest. At Germany's CeBIT tradeshow in March 1997, Microsoft demonstrated Windows NT 5.0, showing off its support for Plug and Play, task-oriented system customization, "EasyNet," a new network configuration utility, Wolfpack clustering, and other new features. The theme at the time was "removing the barriers": Microsoft wanted all users of Windows 9x and NT to be able to easily upgrade to the ambitious new NT 5.0 when it shipped.

"NT 5.0 will let any user have no reason not to run it, if they have enough memory," said Moshe Dunie, then vice president of Microsoft's personal and business systems group. Dunie would later take the fall as NT 5.0's development schedule fell further and further behind.

Microsoft also revealed that the Active Directory in Windows 2000 would be based on technology taken from its Exchange Server product, whose SQL-like message store was considered an obvious choice. Brian Valentine was running the show for the Exchange team at the time; Valentine would later take control of Windows 2000 when Dunie was forced out.

At the May 1997 WinHEC show, Bill Gates announced that Windows NT 5.0 would ship "in 1998" and that the company would merge its 9x and NT lines after that release. These plans, of course, were doomed. NetPCs and Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW) were all the rage at the show. In April, Moshie Dunie explained that Windows NT would be split into three "versions" after the release of NT 5.0 in 1998: a 64-bit version for Intel's Merced that would work on servers, a 32-bit version for servers and workstations, and a consumer version that would have "friendly security because you don't want a child to access and wipe out your files." All three versions would run on the same kernel, Dunie said, and the 64-bit version would support hierarchical storage, volume management, and disaster recovery.

At an ill-conceived Scalability Day in May 1997, Microsoft announced that NT 5.0 would ship in three editions: Workstation, Server, and Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition was to be bundled with the Wolfpack clustering solution and messaging middleware code-named "Falcon."  Multi-monitor support was added to NT 5.0.

At TechEd in May 1997, Microsoft revealed what many people had feared: it wasn't sure that it was going to be able to migrate users from Windows 9x to Windows NT 5.0. The company had (and continues to have) no plans to upgrade Windows 9x to support NT's NTFS file system and it originally was planning no 9x upgrade plan to NT 5.0. "What we won't be providing initially is, on first ship, the upgrade from Windows \[9x to NT 5.0 Workstation\]," said Microsoft program manager Bernard Wong, who presented seminars on Windows 98 (then known as "Memphis") and NT 5.0 Workstation at TechEd. "The reason is because we expect there won't be such an incredible amount of time lag between those products, so that somebody who has just finished upgrading to Memphis is not going to be upgrading to Windows NT Workstation."  Needless to say, this never happened because of the delays getting NT 5.0 out the door. Instead, Microsoft was forced to work up a 9x to NT 5.0/2000 upgrade plan, further delaying the product.

In May 1997, Microsoft announced a deal with Citrix that would make NT 5.0 a true multi-user operating system like UNIX. Using technology from Citrix, Microsoft eventually developed Terminal Services, which is now included in Windows 2000 Server. But before that work was complete, the company released Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition in 1998 ("Hydra"). Other developments of the time never saw the light of day: Microsoft was working on a set of broadcast architecture technologies that eventually were included in Windows 98 as WebTV for Windows. Though originally planned for inclusion in Windows 2000, this feature was dropped in mid-1998 when it became clear that the ever-ambitious OS was already biting off more than it could chew.

At Spring Comdex 97 in Atlanta, I was able to attend some advanced NT 5.0 demos. Microsoft was adding support for Plug and Play, USB devices, DVD, Enhanced TV, and other features. Microsoft's David Ursino and Bernard Wong told me that the first NT 5.0 beta would ship in "August/September" while the final release was expected in early 1998. This seemed reasonable at the time: NT 4.0 was in beta for only five months before it shipped. At his Comdex keynote, Bill Gates announced that Windows NT would receive half of the company's 1998 R&D budget, or $1 billion. Alpha versions of NT 5.0 were shipped to key developers the week of Comdex. Gates confirmed that NT 5.0 would ship in early 1998 and that the product would include key Internet features and Kerebos public key encryption technology.

At PC Expo in late June, however, Microsoft's release date for Windows NT 5.0 had slipped from early 1998 to "about a year" (mid-1998). The delays would only continue.

On July 1, 1997, Microsoft released the first beta of Windows 98, then known as "Memphis." Though the product was eventually delayed about eight months so that Internet Explorer could be integrated into the OS, Windows 98 still managed to ship in June 1998, a full year and a half before Windows 2000. And Memphis Beta 1 shipped two months before Microsoft was able to get a beta of Windows 2000 (NT 5.0) into the hands of testers. It's an interesting comparison.

The company also announced in July that it would ship Windows NT 5.0 Beta 1 in September so that attendees at its Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) could get their hands on the new code. It was an announcement the company regretted: The NT team made the announcement to goad them into shipping something, as the product was already far behind schedule by then. But as the September date neared, NT 5.0 wasn't even close to ready and the eventual Beta 1 release that was handed out was a disjointed mess that would never have otherwise been declared Beta 1. It was an embarrassment of epic proportions. New features such as Intellimirror and Active Directory were broken or nowhere to be seen.

In August, technical beta testers were informed that the Windows NT 5.0 beta was beginning when NDAs were faxed and mailed.

Also in September, I discovered the code-name for the next version of Windows, "Millennium." At the time, Millennium was to have been the next consumer Windows, or Windows NT 6.0. This never happened, of course, and Millennium eventually became the code-name of the Consumer Windows that followed Windows 98 Second Edition. NT 6.0 was originally expected in 2000 or 2001. The company also announced that it was pushing back the release of Windows 98 from November 1997 to Q1 1998. Publicly, the company said it was doing this to add a Windows 3.1 upgrade option, but the truth was far more sinister: It was pushing back the release of Windows 98 to harm Netscape by integrating IE 4.0 more permanently into the Windows operating system. The facts behind this delay were revealed in mid-1999 during the Microsoft antitrust trial. The company also said that the first beta for Windows NT 5.0 would be "far from build quality," which was a huge understatement.

Microsoft also unveiled its plans for "Windows DNA" at the PDC that year. No one quite understood what it meant, but it relied on Windows NT 5.0, "COM3" (which became COM+), and "Vegas" (Visual Studio 98, which was renamed Visual Studio 6.0). Windows NT 5.0's encrypting file system was also revealed, along with the Security Configuration Editor. Windows NT 5.0 would also include DirectX 98, which was the original name for DirectX 6.0 (the final version of Windows 2000 actually includes DirectX 7.0). Microsoft announced that the second beta of Windows NT 5.0 would ship in January or February 1998; it actually shipped in late August 1998.

Windows NT 5.0 Beta 1 (build 1671, NT 4.0 was build 1381) was released to manufacturing (RTM) on Saturday, September 20, 1997. VP Jim Allchin told attendees at the PDC that they would have the code on CD by the end of the week. "Windows NT 5.0 is going to be a massive release," Allchin said. "And Microsoft is going to bet the company on it." It was a theme that would repeat over the years, that Microsoft was betting the company on NT 5.0. The plan at the time was simple: Windows NT 5.0 was a superset of Windows 98, including and expanding on every feature that the consumer OS offered. This meant that NT 5.0 would include Digital TV integration (eventually dubbed WebTV for Windows), Internet Explorer 4.0, DirectX 5.0, and more. Of course, there were distinctions between the two. Allchin noted that "NT 5 will be the ultimate business obvious standard for businesses," while Windows 98 is for consumers. In the future, this position would be altered tremendously: NT 5.0/2000 become solely a business OS by the time Beta 2 shipped in 1998.

New features of Windows NT 5.0 unveiled at the time of the PDC included NTFS 5.0, Distributed File System (Dfs), file encryption, FAT32 compatibility, and "no reboot" networking. If a DHCP server weren't found, Windows NT 5.0 would simply assign its own IP address and keep working without throwing up an error message. Active Directory was designed to be NT's first true directory service, while IntelliMirror would enable easy support for roaming users and data/code replication. And NT 5.0 would include a common management shell called the MMC (Microsoft Management Console) that would house all future management tools. Allchin noted that Windows NT 6.0 would be the first fully 64-bit version of NT on both Intel and Alpha hardware. The goal for Windows NT 6.0 was "simplicity," though this goal was later subsumed for Windows 2000/NT 5.0, leading to further delays. NT 6 would support distributed computing, be more intuitive, information rich, maintenance free, and was to offer seamless communication features ("No networking!" Allchin declared) along with a speech interface. Windows Installer was also previewed at the PDC in 1997.

On the last day of the PDC, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates unveiled his vision for the future of Windows. According to Gates, that future was all NT, with natural language, speech, and visual recognition features thrown in for good measure.

"Bet the future on Windows NT," Gates said. "We're driving the business market to use that product as rapidly as possible, and it'll be a variation using the same technology that we use to drive NT into the consumer market. New personal computers will come with the refinement of NT 5.0 the same way they come with Windows 95 today."

Gates said that Windows 98, which had yet to ship at the time, would be phased out in a couple of year for Windows NT, which would be available in a consumer edition in Windows NT 6.0, which he referred to as "Windows NT Personal Edition."

Microsoft released Exchange Server 5.5 at Fall Comdex that year, promising to deliver the next release, "Platinum," in 1998. The Platinum message store formed the basis of Active Directory. System requirements for Windows NT 5.0 were released in November 1997 as well: 200 MHz Pentium Pro processor or better with 64 MB of RAM.

At Fall Comdex 97, Microsoft dropped a bomb: Windows NT 5.0 would not ship until late 1998, not mid-1998 as promised. Meanwhile, Beta 2 was also delayed from December 15th (an interesting date; Windows 2000 eventually RTM'd on December 15, 1999) to "the first half of 1998." Later that month, WinInfo was the first online publication to note that Windows NT 5.0 might actually be delayed until 1999.

Cyrix announced a $500 computer that was to run Windows NT 5.0. The project was created with cooperation from Microsoft, though it obviously never saw the light of day.

In late November, Microsoft confirmed that it would not support the older APM power management specification in Windows NT 5.0, but would only support the newer ACPI spec instead. This decision was later repealed, and then reinstated for Server Edition.

In December, Microsoft released a beta MSN client for Windows NT, which was supposed to have been included in Windows NT 5.0. This was, however, the last external release of an MSN client for NT to this day. Microsoft now promises to have MSN working on Windows 2000 sometime in 2000. Steve Ballmer stated the obvious in December when he noted that IE 4.0 was rushed to market. He said Microsoft wouldn't do the same thing to Windows NT 5.0: Without the ZAW and IntelliMirror stuff, I don't think we're doing the seminal step forward that people expect out of NT 5," Ballmer said. "It's absolutely essential we get that product right. If it's a few months later, I'd hate it--I'd love to have it now--but we're better off getting it right."

1998: NT 5.0 Beta 2, "Windows 2000"
In January 1998, Microsoft's Jonathan Perera said that Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 would ship in June 1998, with the final release delivered in time for the 1998 PDC in September. A beta of the 64-bit NT 6.0 was promised by the end of 1998; this never happened of course (in fact, it hasn't shipped as of this writing). "I don't think there will be big differences in the source code \[between NT 5.0 and 64-bit NT\]," said Ed Muth, a group product manager in Microsoft's personal and business systems division. "There will be the same source deck, with the choice of generating a 32-bit or 64-bit executable. This will be a recompilation of the NT operating system as a 64-bit application. It will include a flat address space and 64-bit pointers, APIs, and system services and will coexist for many years with a 32-bit version of NT." By January 1998, NT 5.0 was already "wallowing in delays," as I wrote in WinInfo, with key features such as IntelliMirror still not working correctly. "The current plan is to have the IntelliMirror functionality in Beta 2," said Microsoft's Jeff Price. Beta 2 was then expected in mid-1998.

In an attempt to save face, Microsoft announced in February that it would ship Beta 2 in April. Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 was to be the first look at the final feature-set of NT 5.0: While Beta 2 itself wouldn't be feature complete, user feedback would determine how the final product would look. Expected ship date in February was first quarter 1999, though Microsoft's Phil Holden refused to confirm: "That's just rumor and speculation. We haven't set the launch dates internally yet. I wish we had; then I could finalize some of my plans," he said. Holden was part of the team at Microsoft that planned the Windows 98 launch event. "We will not set a final ship date for NT 5.0 until we get solid feedback from beta testers. Unfortunately, all this is pure speculation."

In late February, Microsoft did confirm, however, that "feature-itis" was contributing to the delay of Windows NT 5.0. Threatening to cut features to make a late 1998 ship date, Microsoft's top brass directed the NT team to do what it had to do to ship. Pundits speculated that features such as IntelliMirror and Active Directory would be dropped for a future release. But the NT team fought to keep these features included, arguing that they represented a huge part of the reason that customers would want to upgrade. "Making \[Active Directory\] work is not terribly hard, but having all the infrastructure around the Active Directory--having it be scalable over machines that are different in power by factors of thousands, having it be scalable across companies that are very different in the number of objects they are trying to manage in the Active Directory by a factor of 10--these are tremendous design goals," said Ed Muth, an NT group product manager at Microsoft.

In March, details of what was to be NT 6.0 were revealed: NT 6.0 would run on every conceivable piece of hardware from small handheld devices all the way up to huge multi-system, multi-processor servers. "Clustering and SMP \[symmetric multiprocessing\] will get much more intertwined technologically, so that there will be boxes that, from some points of view, one might think of them as clusters and some might think of them as SMP machines," Muth said. "One of our big interests is to provide a richer system infrastructure around and through clustering." Microsoft also demonstrated new NT 5.0 features, such as a new version of TAPI and streaming media. 

The company shipped an interim build (1773) of Windows NT 5.0 to beta testers and WinHEC attendees in late March in place of Beta 2, which was still delayed. IntelliMirror was finally included, though not fully functional, and Active Directory was enhanced with a new user interface and security subsystem.

At WinHEC in March 1998, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 98 was the last of the line for the 16/32-bit Windows platform: All OS releases going forward would be based on NT. A Web multimedia content tool, code-named "Chrome," was announced, that would meld DirectX with HTML. Its heady hardware requirements caused a stink with developers, however, and the product was soon pulled, never to return. And simplicity became an issue for Windows NT 5.0 all of a sudden, as customer feedback showed Microsoft that the software it was building was too complicated. "We build confusing systems," said Senior Vice President Jim Allchin. "The number of questions we get on our support line imply we haven't done a very good job." Allchin demonstrated NT 5.0 build 1773, including new laptop features (hot-docking, hot drive and battery swapping, both firsts for NT), and something called "hibernation" that would save the contents of memory to disk when the system was powered off. "What is saved to disk stays there for three week, three years, three generations," Allchin said. "This will become the standard way to boot up and shut down \[computers\]." Hibernation still hasn't taken off as of this writing. Allchin also discussed NT 5.0's memory requirements, which were realistic at least ("If you use 64MB as the standard memory size, we like you," Allchin said. "If you use 128MB, we really like you.") and noted that Windows 98 was ready to ship in June.

DirectX 6.0 was announced at WinHEC. Microsoft said that this release would be included in the ever-delayed Windows NT 5.0. Features such as "DirectMusic" didn't make the cut.

A future user interface for Windows, dubbed GDI 2000, was also demonstrated at WinHEC. This 3D user interface wasn't expected until after the release of Window NT 5.0 in late 1998 or early 1999. With a 3D interface, Windows users would be able to arrange windows--which would no longer be limited to square shapes--in a three-dimensional space. Windows would also make use of numerous real-time animations, according to Microsoft's Kevin Bachus.

In late March, Steve Ballmer confirmed that Microsoft had decided on the fate of IntelliMirror: Windows NT 5.0 would not ship without it. He promised Beta 2 in June.

Testing of Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 began in April 1998. SP4 diverged from the "bug fixes only" mantra of previous (and subsequent) service packs by including a number of new features, including IE 4.01, the Security Configuration Editor (SCE) from Windows NT 5.0, DCOM enhancements, support for IGMP, and WBEM support (also originally slated for NT 5.0). SP4 would also include updates to Option Pack 4 for Windows NT 4.0, which had shipped in December. "The focus of this service pack is on improving reliability," said Jonathan Perera, lead product manager for Windows NT Server at Microsoft. "That's why we're giving it to lots of customer sites and why we'll be beta testing it for about three months." Microsoft promised that SP4 would be the last SP to add new features.

At Spring Comdex 98 in April, the infamous Windows 98 crash during Bill Gates' demo occurred. Though it received a lot of press, the problem was fairly minor and easily avoided, but it cast a bad light on the soon to be released OS. Gates also demonstrated Windows NT 5.0, which didn't crash. Microsoft confirmed once again the 98 was the end of the Windows 9x line, though "minor updates" would be provided over the next few years. The first of these updates, Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), was released in mid-1999. "The next-generation operating system will be based on an NT kernel," said Microsoft product manager Stacey Breyfogle. "Windows 98 is the last generation of an MS DOS-based system."

A preview of Internet Explorer 5.0 in April revealed a slimmed-down browser that would be far more customizable than the earlier 4.0 version. And Microsoft revealed for the first time that IE 5.0 would be included in Windows NT 5.0, then expected in early 1999.

At his NetWorld+Interop keynote address in May 1998, Microsoft VP Jim Allchin discussed Windows NT 5.0 and the directions NT would take in the future. NT 5.0 Beta 2, he said, would ship in "very early summer 1998" and be nearly feature-complete. "We are spending $1 billion and have 5,000 people working on bringing this product to market," Allchin said. Allchin then spelled out the four key elements of Windows NT 5.0, which are incredible to consider over a year later:

  1. Chrome, a melding of DirectX and the Web.

  2. Advanced Storage, including hierarchical storage management technology licensed from Veritas.

  3. Policy-based management in Active Directory.

  4. NetShow Server 3.0, which would provide video streaming.

Allchin also confirmed that Microsoft would add OLAP data-mining capabilities to SQL Server 7.0, then in beta, rather than sell them as a separate product.

Active Directory was finalized in May 1998 along with a one-way synchronization tool that would link the service to Novell Directory Services (NDS). "Ultimately, people are going to want a single directory infrastructure, but we know that's not going to happen immediately," said Tanya van Dam, group product manager for Windows NT Server. "We wanted to do the work to synchronize with NDS since NDS has the biggest installed base." If that doesn't sound like a threat, I don't know what does. Meanwhile, Cisco began work porting Active Directory to Sun Solaris and HP-UX.

Intel's 64-bit Merced processor was delayed in May from mid-1999 until mid-2000, giving Microsoft a chance to save face with its 64-bit NT, which wasn't going to happen in time anyway.

At TechEd in June, Jim Allchin continued to promise NT 5.0 Beta 2 by the end of the month, while Office 9 officially became known as "Office 2000." Microsoft VP Steve Ballmer knocked on the wood of his podium during an address and declared that Windows NT 5.0 would ship in early 1999. So much for that. Internet Explorer 5.0, which was to be included in NT 5.0, was described as a "set of system services," not a Web browser, as Microsoft entered into early discussions with the DOJ concerning product bundling. COM+ would probably not be ready for NT 5.0 Beta 2, Microsoft noted.

Microsoft announced that Windows NT 5.1, code-named "Asteroid," would follow the release of NT 5.0 "closely." Asteroid was expected to include any features that were dropped from the final release of NT 5.0.

Also at TechEd, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates defended NT 5.0's delays via a satellite keynote address. We didn't prioritize the schedule over the quality of the work," he said. "We understand our direction very, very well, although the exact timing, we don't." Gates discussed new features such as the Microsoft Installer (code-named "Darwin"), which was to be included in Office 2000 as well. He also noted that Beta 2 was now expected in mid-July.

Windows 98 launched on June 25, 1998 with a scaled-down launch event.

The first unofficial kick-off for the Windows NT 5.0 launch (yes, that's what Microsoft called it) began in early July 1998 with the NT Development Conference in San Jose. The event was open only to members of the RDP (Rapid Deployment Program, a group of close Microsoft partners). But Beta 2 was nowhere in sight: Just days before the event, Microsoft confirmed that NT 5.0 Beta 2 would be delayed until late summer. Instead, RDP members and technical beta testers received a second beta "refresh" and news of a third beta was revealed for the first time (NT 4.0 had only two beta releases, so this was unexpected). "We can give probabilities," said Microsoft CEO Bill Gates last week about the release of Windows NT 5.0. "There's almost no possibility it will be \[released\] in 1998. There's a high probability it will be in the first half of 1999. That's different than a ship date."

But Beta 2 wouldn't be feature-complete as promised. In July, an article posted to the Microsoft Web site explained the delays and discussed NT 5.0 Beta 3: "The key features for Windows NT 5.0--including IntelliMirror management technologies, Active Directory directory service and Plug and Play support--will be included with beta 2," the Q&A reads. "It is important to remember that this release is still a beta release so there will be bugs, and we will refine the product based on customer feedback."

"\[Microsoft is adding a third beta release\] to broaden our testing. A key part of our development process has been to make interim builds available to customers who give us frequent feedback on the status of the product. We have been doing this since beta 1 and will continue to do this after beta 2. We had always planned to make one of these interim builds available to a broad set of customers as a 'beta 2 refresh.' We have recently decided to name this refresh release \[as\] beta 3 and make it available to an even wider set of customers."

What's most interesting about this document, of course, is its explanation of how these changes will affect the final release date of Windows NT 5.0:

"While it is clear that the change in the target date for beta 2 from second quarter to summer had a direct impact on the final ship date of Windows NT 5.0, the change in the name of the "beta 2 refresh" to beta 3 does not affect the overall schedule for Windows NT 5.0, since we had always planned to make this interim build available to customers," the document says.


In July, Microsoft confirmed that Beta 2 would ship in late summer, but that an interim release would be given out to attendees of its October PDC.

At Microsoft's annual analyst meeting in late July, Microsoft promised Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 "within three weeks." The company reiterated its intention to phase out Windows 9x with Windows 98 and base all future operating systems on Windows NT.

Build 1859, billed as a "release candidate for Beta 2," was made available to beta testers in early August.

In early August, Microsoft demonstrated build 1868 of Windows NT 5.0 at the Usenix NT Symposium. NT program manager Tom Phillips said that the company was "within 100 showstoppers" of shipping Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2, which he said would be released by the end of the month.

On August 18th, 200 members of the press (including myself and Keith Furman) attended a Windows NT 5.0 Technical Reviewers Workshop in Seattle where Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 was finally released. Microsoft announced that over 250,000 people would get access to the oft-delayed release, which looked ready for primetime during the live demos. New revelations included the Personalized Start menu, killer mobile solutions, better hardware support than Windows 98, TCO solutions, and a resolution of "DLL hell." Microsoft announced that Windows NT 5.0 would have identical hardware requirements to NT 4.0 and that it would be faster than Windows 98 on systems with 32MB of RAM or more. However, there were some dark areas: Attempts at making Windows NT 5.0 a true superset of Windows 98 were at an end as some key technologies, such as WebTV for Windows, would not be included. And Microsoft was finally hammering home the notion that Windows NT 5.0 was being designed solely for businesses, not for individual users at home. Microsoft's Jim Allchin spoke of releases that would follow NT 5.0, such as NT 5.1 "Asteroid" and NT 6.0 "Neptune," which would feature a consumer edition. Post-NT 5.0, Windows would receive a maintenance-free user interface and a unified Web/Win32 API. "NT everywhere" was the theme of the show.

In celebration of Windows NT 5.0, I unveiled my "Windows NT 5.0 SuperSite," which eventually became known as the "Windows 2000 SuperSite" and then, finally, the "SuperSite for Windows" (at the request of Microsoft's lawyers). The SuperSite debuted with news, reviews, and information about Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 and its evolved into the site you're now visiting. The site debuted on August 23, 1998.

Microsoft purchased Valence Research for its Convoy Cluster software in late August. The software eventually became known as the NT Load Balancing Service, and then finally as Network Load Balancing.

On September 11, 1998, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer announced that the release of Windows NT 5.0 was "eight to twelve months away," an effective way of saying that it was delayed yet again, this time to the second half of 1999. I noted at the time that we were probably looking at late 1999 or even early 2000, given Microsoft's inability to hit any ship date. Ballmer noted that Windows NT 5.0 Beta 3 would be available to anyone that wanted it, though the exact method for dispersal was not discussed.

On October 13, 1998 WinInfo was the first online publication to note that Microsoft was quietly planning to drop the "NT" moniker from its Windows NT line of products and simply refer to them as "Windows." This was originally to have happened in the NT 6.0 timeframe, when the Windows 9x line was phased out. Windows NT 6.0 was then expected in 2000 to 2002.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates opened the October 1998 PDC with an antitrust case looming, but the belligerent CEO was all NT 5.0: "The day Windows NT 5.0 ships, there will be more than 60,000 commercially available applications supporting it," Gates said. "Furthermore, there will be three times as many Windows NT 5.0-specific applications than there were Windows 95-specific applications when that operating system launched. This kind of application support is unprecedented. In its first 18 months of availability, we predict the number of applications supporting Windows NT 5.0 will grow to over 100,000."

On October 27, 1998, Microsoft made the surprise (and unwelcome) announcement that Windows NT 5.0 would be renamed to Windows 2000. "We will also firmly establish Windows NT as the mainstream version of Windows for business on both the client and server. Moreover, in the future, the NT kernel will be the basis for all of Microsoft's PC operating systems--from consumer PCs to the highest performance servers," the company wrote in the official announcement. Moreover, the various editions of NT 5.0/2000 were changed somewhat. NT 5 Workstation became Windows 2000 Professional Edition. NT 5 Server became Windows 2000 Server and dropped support for four-way SMP. NT 5 Enterprise Edition became Windows 2000 Advanced Server. The name change was met by furious outrage and disbelief by NT advocates and now, over a year later, this name change is widely known as one of the most obvious strategic mistakes Microsoft has ever made.

"Windows NT was first released five years ago as a specialized operating system for technical and business needs," said Jim Allchin, a senior vice president at Microsoft. "Today it has proven its value as the preferred technology for all users who want industry-leading cost effectiveness, rich security features and demonstrated scalability. Windows NT will be the basis for all Microsoft PC operating systems from consumer products to the highest-performance servers. Windows NT is going mainstream."

"The new name also serves our goal of making it simpler for customers to choose the right Windows products for their needs," said Brad Chase, VP of marketing for the personal and business systems group at Microsoft. "The new naming system eliminates customer confusion about whether 'Windows NT' refers to client or server technology. Also, it was time to eliminate the term 'workstation' from Windows NT Workstation. With improvements across the board in ease of use, mobile support and total cost of ownership, Windows 2000 Professional is the right choice for all business users. It's no longer just for high-end workstations."

The new name probably made sense at the time because Microsoft was planning on discontinuing the 9x line of products. Months later, when this decision was reversed, the renaming of NT 5.0 to Windows 2000 looked even more foolish: Now, a generation of home users will assume that Windows 2000 is an upgrade to Windows 98. For them, it isn't.

In November 1998, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 2000 at its Fall Comdex booth in Las Vegas. I attended the show and sat through a "Road to Windows 2000" demonstration, which basically discussed why Windows NT 4.0 was a smart buy at the time because it would be easier to upgrade later. I was a little put off by the sudden change in the way Microsoft was describing the upgrade from Windows 95/98: In the past, the company suggested that it would be a little harder upgrading 95/98 than Windows NT, but at Comdex they were acting like it would be a mistake to do so. They'd "support" that upgrade, but the differences in the Registry and the way third-party programs install DLLs and other files was going to be a huge problem. At the time, I opined that upgrading Windows 95/98 to Windows 2000 was going to be a total mistake for most people. They eventually got this working correctly, however.

Microsoft's numerous "Windows 2000" booths at Fall Comdex 98 were actually using Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2 to demo the new operating system. The fact that Microsoft was using a two month-old version of NT 5.0 for these demos was telling, I thought. I'd never seen Microsoft not use an interim build at a trade show until then. And my observation was correct: Though we didn't know it at the time, Windows 2000 was behind schedule yet again. These latest delays would lead to the December ouster of Moshe Dunie. He was succeeded by Brian Valentine, who promised to get Windows 2000 on track.

Microsoft launched SQL Server 7.0 at Fall Comdex, though the product didn't actually ship until January 1999. Office 2000 was also launched.

1999: Beta 3, 3 RCs, and RTM
In January 1999, a confidential source close to Microsoft revealed Valentine's plans for releasing Windows 2000. A release candidate for Beta was scheduled for mid-March, while Beta 3 itself was scheduled for a late April 1999 release. After that, Windows 2000 would be RTM'd in the second half of 1999, probably in August.

In February, I pressed Microsoft to consider releasing a Consumer Edition of Windows 2000. A Microsoft reorg days later suggested that such a thing might have happened: A consumer Windows group was split off from Allchin's Enterprise group.

On February 9, 1999, it was revealed that Windows was "code-complete": The OS would receive no new features and be released on October 6, 1999. Additionally, there were some product changes afoot: The decision to can APM support was finally reversed, for example. "\[Windows 2000 is\] feature-complete at the moment. Customer demand may drive additional features, but we don't expect that to happen, nor do we plan on adding new features on our own," said Eric Brad, a Technology Specialist at Microsoft. "We’re treating this like the final version of Windows 2000. The main criteria with Beta 3 is a high quality release that people can bet their business on." Microsoft also announced its Corporate Preview Program (CPP), which would get Windows 2000 Beta 3 code (when it shipped) into the hands of users for less than $100. It actually cost $59.95 when the program was introduced.

In mid-February, Brian Valentine confirmed that Windows 2000 Beta 3 would ship by April 21, 1999. He said that the OS, which consisted of over 30 million lines of code, was entering its final phase of development. "The only way you ever stop is you stop changing the code," Valentine said.

In early March, Valentine confirmed the release dates I had published previously in WinInfo, stating that Beta 3 RC1 would ship on March 17, 1999 and Beta 3 would ship April 21, 1999. Beta 3 would be a "solid" release, he said, and feature a smaller footprint with only 23 million lines of code, a far cry from then-current estimates in the press. "It will be the best laptop OS, that's for sure, even if you use Windows 98," said Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi.

Internet Explorer 5.0 was released in March to positive reviews. Over time, however, IE 5.0 was revealed to be the buggiest product Microsoft has ever released. An interim bug-fix version, IE 5.01, was prepared for inclusion in Windows 2000.

Microsoft shipped Beta 3 Release Candidate 1 on March 17, 1999 as scheduled. Windows 2000 team members celebrated with an alcohol-laden party on the Microsoft campus, but rumors that the product was rushed out the door to meet an arbitrary schedule quelled some of the positive atmosphere.

The October 6, 1999 release date for Windows 2000, the first exact scheduled date, was positively confirmed. Microsoft's internal schedule was made public first in WinInfo and then later on IDG.NET and other sites.

Microsoft Office 2000 was released to manufacturing on March 30, 1999.

On April 7, 1999, Microsoft Corporation revealed its plans to continue with the Windows 9x line and release one more update to Windows 98, to be code-named "Millennium." This massive reversal of previous plans came as a surprise to the entire industry, which had been ordained in Microsoft's "NT everywhere" message for over two years. "There's a good reason to build upon the foundation of the personal computer," Ballmer said. "It's brought us all the success we've all had, and the PC is not getting less popular." However, many reports mistakenly assumed that Microsoft was releasing a major new OS based on Windows 98, but this was later proven to be false: Windows Millennium, like Windows 98 SE, is simply a refresh of Window 98 with few new features.

Windows 2000 was featured prominently at WinHEC 99, where Microsoft president Steve Ballmer talked up the upcoming 64-bit version of Windows 2000. It was revealed that David Cutler, the original architect of Windows NT, was hard at work on making the 64-bit version of Windows 2000 as good as it could be and that this new high-end version would run off the same code base as the "normal" 32-bit version. But while Windows 2000 supports 4 GB of RAM, the 64-bit version will support 8 terabytes of RAM(!), a quantum leap. Future PC designs, including the EasyPC initiative, were unveiled as well. Ballmer confirmed that Windows 2000/NT would be the basis for all Windows products after the year 2000, a hint that Windows Millennium (which was not then named) was the true end of the 9x line.

Brian Valentine talked about Windows 2000 at WinHEC as well. "We're on track to ship it this year," he said.  Valentine explained the strategy for Windows 2000, stating that the product's genesis four years was based around the ideals of scalability, simplicity, and reliability. And since the project began, other goals such as availability and compatibility had become big issues. Developers were tired of writing different drivers for Windows 9x and NT, for example. It's been a big job. 

"I've got literally thousands of people working on \[Windows 2000\] today that are Microsoft employees. I've got almost 1,000 vendors at Microsoft developing device drivers that are housed at Microsoft. And then I've got a whole other wave that are housed at their own companies," Valentine said. "There is just a huge industry investment, and a huge Microsoft investment going into Windows 2000. And it is a big project. It's not a project that's out of control. It's not a project that's too hard to get done, like some people would like to say. We're on a glide path now to get it done this year, and we are going to get it done this year."

"It's feature complete today," he noted. "We're focusing 100 percent on quality, which is reliability, scalability, application compatibility, hardware compatibility, all of those type of things. So there's a huge effort going on in those areas, and it's just in the get it done stage now."

On April 13, 1999, Microsoft officially unveiled its Windows 2000 Corporate Preview Program.

Windows 2000 Beta 3 was delayed one week on April 15 until the 28th. On April 16th, Jim Allchin said that Windows 2000 had hit the home stretch: " We have a set of ship criteria that's incredibly complicated," Allchin said. "It's qualitative and quantitative. There are stress tests we need to pass. We have to test 'x' number of configurations and have 'x' number of deployments to go forward. I see a graph every day that shows where we are." Allchin noted that Professional Edition contained about 29 million lines of code, while Server has about 31 million (compare this to Windows NT 4.0 with SP4, which is about 20 million).

On April 20th, Bill Gates demonstrated Windows 2000 at Spring Comdex. This time around, there were no crashes ala the Windows 98 fiasco from a year earlier, and Gates showed off file synchronization for mobile users (Offline Folders), new power management capabilities, multiple monitor support, and the integrated Terminal Services. Gates also showed off a mouse with no ball that was eventually marketed as the IntelliMouse Explorer.

Windows 2000 Beta 3 finally shipped on Friday, April 30th, the last day of the month, technically late but sort of making its projected April ship date. Windows 2000 Beta 3, said Windows 2000 product manager Jonathan Perera, was "feature complete" and included a host of simplicity features, new security features, a "three click" upgrade from Windows NT 4.0, and memory protection. Microsoft officially "announced" the release of Beta 3 Thursday, April 29th at 11 a.m. PST in a cute sleight of hand. 

According to Brian Valentine, technical beta testers, RDP members, and other Microsoft partners would begin receiving new builds of Windows 2000 every 5 to 8 weeks after Beta 3. Valentine said the suddenly stepped-up release cycle was designed to get "fresh code" into the hands of testers for the remainder of the year, until Windows 2000 is released to manufacturing. "The plan is to drop out a \[release candidate\] every 5 to 8 weeks to all our partners," he said during the Windows 2000 Beta 3 announcement Thursday. "There was a long period of time between Beta 2 and Beta 3. We'll be keeping all testing sites very fresh with software from now on. The new drops will contain fixes based on feedback from testers."  This plan never really panned out, though the release schedule did indeed pick up after the release of Beta 3.

"Beta 3 is more solid than any OS we've ever shipped," Allchin said in early May. "In our stress tests, it performs better than NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4."

At TechEd in late May, Microsoft showed off a wide range of support for Windows 2000, with companies such as IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and many others stepping up to the plate for the OS. "We're actually talking about beyond Windows 2000 now, so we must be getting close to shipping, which is a good sign," Valentine said during his TechEd keynote. "We are building Windows 2000 first and foremost for businesses and enterprises, so don't be confused...\[and\] we're still on track to ship in \[1999\]." Valentine walked through a number of the features of Windows 2000, including device driver verification and driver signing, system file protection, multiple server clustering technology with cascading fail-over support, Active Directory, IntelliMirror, and the new slipstreaming feature of service packs, where bug fixes can be melded into the base OS install share; future installations will automatically include all of the bug fixes without a separate install.

PC Week reported in late May that Windows 2000 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was due June 30th, approximately 8 weeks after the release of Beta 3. This was confirmed by Jim Allchin on June 14, when he said that the first Windows 2000 release candidate would ship by the end of the month. He also noted that Windows 200 would ship in 1999.

At PC Expo in late June, Microsoft was again promoting Windows 2000, especially Terminal Services. Executive Software announced that a future revision to its excellent Diskeeper 5.0 software would support Windows 2000 later that year. The update eventually shipped in November. I was able to test Windows 2000's mobile prowess on the road during my trip to New York for PC Expo. The conclusion? A huge thumbs up.

In a nicely timed about-face on June 30th, Microsoft Corporation announced that customers of its Corporate Preview Program (CPP) for Windows 2000 would be receiving newer builds than the Beta 3 release they were previously promised. The original plan for CPP was that customers purchasing the $60 CD set would receive only Beta 3, but Microsoft decided to supply these customers with later "release candidate" (RC) builds as well. Eventually, CPP members were given access to RC1 and RC2, but not RC3 or the final release. 

Testers for Windows "Millennium" began receiving NDAs on July 1, 1999.

Betas of Internet Explorer 5.0 SP1 and IE 5.01 began in early July. The two programs were eventually merged into a single IE 5.01 release. This is the version of Internet Explorer that was eventually included in the final release of Windows 2000.

Microsoft delivered Windows 2000 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) on July 1, 1999. This so-called RC release, however, was marred by a few problems: It clearly wasn't a true release candidate in the sense that Microsoft never intended that it could be the final build, and it missed its projected release date by a few days, casting doubts on Brian Valentine's abilities to ship on schedule. Valentine had made his first ship date (B3RC1 on March 17), but this was largely ceremonial: The company simply signed off on the build of the day. Beta 3 and RC1 were both late, as were all subsequent releases. Valentine later received a promotion for his work getting Windows 2000 released.

Windows 2000 RC1 was, however, an excellent build. Many people clamored for Microsoft to release this build as the final version. "Delivering Windows 2000 to customers by the end of the year is an important goal for Microsoft. The development team has a number of internal goals they are working toward fulfilling to help achieve this goal. Microsoft's goal is to ship this product in 1999 though ultimately, customer feedback will drive the ship date," the company announced.

On August 6, 1999, Microsoft dared hackers to break into a Windows 2000 server that it made available on the Internet. The machine was brought down numerous times until Microsoft took it offline. Similar promotions by various Linux companies fared better: A PowerPC-based Linux box, for example, was never successfully hacked.

On August 18, 1999 Microsoft announced that it was upgrading the multiprocessing support in Windows 2000 to match that of Windows NT 4.0: Professional would support two processors, Server four, and Advanced Server eight. "\[Windows 2000\] should eliminate the Unix single point of failure issue," Bill Gates said late in the month about the SMP decision. "People are expecting everything out of this software that they got from mainframes, plus they want the clustering capability."

In a stunning move, Compaq dropped support for Windows NT and Windows 2000 on its Alpha processor on August 20, 1999. Microsoft responded by dropping Alpha support for the 64-bit version of Windows 2000. This left the Intel x86 architecture as the only hardware platform for Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 Release Candidate was delayed from its previously scheduled Labor Day weekend date in early September, but Microsoft officials promised that this wouldn't prevent the company from shipping the product in 1999.

Microsoft announced Windows DNA 2000 on September 13, 1999. Windows DNA 2000 is simply the next generation of Windows DNA, a platform for distributed applications built on Windows 200 and COM+ technology.

Microsoft finally released Windows 2000 RC2 on September 15, 1999 in time for DevDays '99, a developer's show. However, attendees at the show received RC1 on CD, go figure.

DirectX 7.0, which will be included in Windows 2000, was released on September 22, 1999.

The beta for Windows 2000 DataCenter Server began in late September, with a select group of Microsoft's 300 largest customers.

Microsoft and Windows NT Magazine began a 40-city tour to promote Windows 2000 to computer user group members around America. "We have learned that the best way for people to understand the benefits of a product like Windows 2000 is to see it and use it," said Jim Allchin, senior vice president of the Platforms Division at Microsoft. "The Windows 2000 Customer Preview Tour is a great opportunity for us to solicit feedback on our product and give customers the tips, tricks and tools they need to be successful with Windows 2000."

On October 4, 1999, Intel announced that its 64-bit Merced processor would be named "Itanium."

Microsoft Corporation announced on October 5, 1999 that over 100 customers had already deployed Windows 2000 in production environments, months before the operating system itself shipped publicly. Companies such as Data Return, Siemens, and Banyan have deployed Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, and Professional Edition Release Candidate 2 (RC2) within their organizations. Each company cited the increased reliability and scalability of Windows 2000 as a factor in their decision. Microsoft also shipped the first beta for SQL Server 2000 "Shiloh" on this date.

Microsoft's original RTM date of October 6th came and went without word from Microsoft, leaving some to speculate that the Fall Comdex '99 launch was in doubt. As later reported in my Comdex Fall 99 review on the Supersite, the problems were worse than expected: According to sources close to the Windows 2000 team, the delays we've seen this fall were due to application compatibility. Most frightening, however, is that the Application Compatibility Project Manager was going through the internal bug reporting tool and downgrading "Priority 1" issues to "Priority 3" so that the daily counts of showstopper bugs would steadily go down whether or not actual work was being done. This activity was uncovered in late September or early October, so someone looked at all of the downgraded issues and gave them correct priority levels. Needless to say, it was discovered that the project was further behind than previously expected. As a result, a large number of people from the development and testing teams were shifted over to the Application Compatibility team; by mid-November they were just started getting caught up again. Ouch! So much for that October RTM date.

Microsoft Corporation released the second beta of its Directory Synchronization Services (MSDSS) tool on October 8th, which enables two-way synchronization of directory services data stored in Active Directory and Novell Directory Service (NDS). The company described the release as "well ahead of schedule." It also surpasses the one-way synchronization that was promised in the first release of this tool.

Finally, in late October, Microsoft met with its partners and revealed its new plans for the Windows 2000 launch: Windows 2000 would launch on February 17, 2000 at the IDG Windows 2000 Conference and Expo in San Francisco. It turns out that February's launch date is purely arbitrary: IDG had already scheduled its show for February, having assumed that the product would launch at Comdex. Well, as fate would have it, Comdex couldn't happen and IDG was lucky enough to have a tradeshow sitting there waiting. I'm guessing ZD Events isn't too excited about this turn of events. Fall Comdex 99, scheduled as the original launch date, would now come and go without the anticipated launch festivities. However, the company again insisted that it would ship Windows 2000 by the end of 1999. That is, it would release the product to manufacturing as I noted in August. Reporters from around the globe, however, took this to mean that Windows 2000 had been delayed yet again. Meanwhile, Microsoft's third release candidate for Windows 2000 was nowhere to be seen.

On November 2, 1999, Microsoft released the final pricing for Windows 2000. The NT 4.0 Workstation to Win2K Professional upgrade would run $150 (the same price as the NT 4.0 Workstation upgrade), while upgrading Windows 95 or 98 to Windows 2000 Professional will cost a staggering $220, almost twice as much as the upgrade to NT 4.0 Workstation. Buying the "full" version of Windows 2000 Professional will cost $320. For Server, things get even more complicated and expensive. Windows 2000 Server with a 10-user Client Access License (CAL) will cost $1200, while the 25-user version will cost $1800. Upgrades from Windows NT 4.0 or Novell Netware will cost $600 and $900 respectively. Windows 2000 Advanced Server will cost $4000 for in 25-user form, or $2000 when upgrading from Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition.

At its annual shareholder's meeting in mid-November, Microsoft executives discussed the antitrust trial and Windows 2000. "Windows 2000 \[is\] the most important product for us for a lot of reasons," said Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. "It's the most important product because it will transform the PC, helping to restore its image of reliability and manageability, but it's also the platform that will allow many software developers to transform their business from packaged business to a service business, because it includes many of the core facilities, it and the products that go around it, which are essential for software becoming a service. Frankly, \[we need to\] really make sure that we get Windows 2000 off to a great start. And if we do that, I'm pretty sure we'll all agree, we'll have an excellent next 12 months."

One possible date for Windows 2000 RC3, November 9th, came and went with no word from Microsoft. Analysts were expecting something from the company before Fall Comdex, held the next week in Las Vegas.

Microsoft delivered Windows 2000 RC3 (build 2183) on Wednesday, November 17, 1999. Just days earlier, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates delivered a stunning demo of Windows 2000 during his Fall Comdex 99 keynote. Microsoft's presence at Comdex was bigger than ever and the company was pushing Windows 2000 constantly. During a press briefing on Windows 2000 that I attended with Keith Furman, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer talked up Windows 2000 Professional while VP Jim Allchin discussed the reliability, scalability, availability, and manageability improvements in Windows 2000 Server. Responding to questions about the antitrust case, Ballmer said that the company had no plans to offer a version of Windows 2000 without Internet Explorer.

In early December 1999, Microsoft completed Internet Explorer 5.01 and released an advanced "developer preview" of IE 5.5.

On December 14, 1999 WinInfo became the first publication to report that Microsoft had signed off on build 2195 as the final release version of Windows 2000.

Microsoft Corporation announced on December 15, 1999 that Windows 2000 had gone gold with the simple note that "Windows 2000 is ready for business: Feb. 17, 2000." A subsequent press release talked up the release, which will be generally available on or before February 17, 2000. 

"Our customers have been intimately involved in the development process for Windows 2000 since its inception and they expect nothing less than the highest-quality, most reliable platform on which to run their businesses," said Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft. "We've heard from our customers loud and clear that Windows 2000 is now ready to support their demanding needs, so we're proud to release Windows 2000 to manufacturing today."

"Today's completion of Windows 2000 represents a phenomenal team effort and would not be possible without the amazing contributions from our employees, customers and partners across the industry," said Jim Allchin, group vice president of the Platforms Group at Microsoft. "Windows 2000 is the most reliable, highest-performing operating system in our company's history and provides a platform to support customers' stringent needs for high system availability."

Microsoft will market Windows 2000 using the following criteria: Internet-enabling businesses, reliability, manageability, best platform for new devices, and performance.

A lesson learned
So there you have it, over two years in the life of the Windows 2000 development process. If there's a lesson to be learned here, and I believe there is, it's that the development of monolithic operating systems is over. While Windows 2000 is a great product, its development time and complexity is just too much to ask of customers. In the future, Microsoft will need to work off of a stable base, adding features on a yearly basis. For example, Microsoft should have developed Active Directory and IntelliMirror separately, releasing these products when they were ready. Asking customers to wrap their minds around all of the new features and changes in Windows 2000 is simply too much to ask.

Don't get me wrong, Windows 2000 is a tremendous achievement. But given the time and effort that went into its development, it had better be. We expect nothing less of an OS that's going to run our businesses. Let's hope it doesn't run them into the ground.