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Hong Kong first to see future of Windows 2000
HONG KONG (IDG) -- Several hours before the main launch set for later Thursday in San Francisco, Microsoft here unveiled the long-awaited new version of its Windows operating system with great fanfare and a taped video appearance by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates.
"We're the first major market in the world to launch Windows 2000, because of our time-zone advantage over the U.S.," said Graham Brant, general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong.
Gates, in a pre-recorded speech, emphasized the place of Windows 2000 in the Internet economy.
"Windows 2000 is the platform on which you will build the next generation of Internet solutions," Gates said in the brief, slickly produced presentation, shown on a giant screen in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Internet was the dominant theme of the event, in which the company claimed Windows 2000 had the reliability and scalability to bring companies into the Internet economy. Also prominently displayed were the ease-of-management capabilities of Active Directory, which Microsoft has been promoting as its all-encompassing directory solution since the concept was first announced in 1998.
Active Directory, designed to store and link end-station information and IP addresses with user names, access rights, phone numbers and locations, is a key advantage of Windows 2000 over rival Linux, Brant said in answer to a question. Another key advantage is its security capabilities, he said, including strong encryption on which U.S. export controls were only recently loosened.
"Windows 2000 is the first operating system shipped worldwide with 128-bit encryption," Brant said.
Brant and other local executives pointed to the multilingual capabilities of the new OS as a key benefit for the territory. Windows 2000 eventually will be available in 16 languages, including both simplified and traditional Chinese characters.
With a Multilingual Pack, users and administrators can set the entire interface, including system setup files, for several languages, allowing multinational firms to more easily accommodate users in different countries and thereby ease administration and reduce costs, company executives said. Foreign-language applications also can be run easily on an English-language version of the OS, they added.
A version using traditional Chinese characters will ship in Hong Kong in mid-March, Brant said, and a simplified-character version of the OS will be launched in China on March 20.
Asked whether recently imposed controls on encryption software in China will be a barrier there, Brant said Microsoft is in discussions with the country's National Commission on Encryption Code Regulations.
"We have a very active dialog with the commission, and we are confident we can come to an agreement," he said. "It really is up to the government."
"Part of the challenge is that they're still defining the regulations," Brant added.
An edict last year that came into force on Jan. 31 states that all encryption-capable products must be approved for sale and that foreign encryption products may not be sold.
Much of the emphasis at the event was on Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server, which officials claimed had three times the performance of Unix operating systems at 40 percent of the cost.
However, the company also touted end-system features of Windows 2000 Professional, including advanced power management capabilities for mobile computers and ease of connection through Universal Serial Bus and Digital Subscriber Line modems.
A host of partners gave small demonstrations of Windows 2000-based products at the event. They included Dell Computer, Citrix Systems, Unisys, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard. Compaq demonstrated a wireless LAN solution using the OS.
Prices for the English-language versions of Windows 2000 in Hong Kong range from HK$2,699 (US$347) for the Professional version to $33,299 for Windows 2000 Advanced Server with a 25-client access license.
Stephen Lawson is Asian correspondent for the IDG News Service in Hong Kong.
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