Microsoft pushes NT 4.0 over Windows 98
(IDG) -- Looking to fill the gap facing corporate users produced by Windows 98's consumer focus and Windows NT 5.0's lengthy delay, Microsoft is mounting a fresh NT 4.0 Workstation push.
The software maker is using aggressive pricing, and a promise that NT 4.0 will smooth the bumps in the upgrade path to NT 5.0, widely expected in the second quarter of 1999.And according to some industry analysts, maintaining a healthy revenue flow may be among the benefits.
"They want to discourage [upgrade] decision deferral, otherwise known as accelerate revenue," said Chris LeTocq, principal analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif.
"What you're seeing from a promotional standpoint is Microsoft trying to accelerate revenue by putting some excitement in the NT marketplace," LeTocq said. "They are clearly sending the message to corporations that NT 4.0 is the way they should be going, not Windows 98."
Microsoft recently cut the price of NT 4.0 upgrades by 20 percent, a discount that applies to users of older versions, such as NT 3.51, as well as to users of competing systems, including Novell NetWare and Unix.
A study by Dataquest this week indicated that although Windows 98 -- which will be launched on Thursday -- will ship on some 56.7 million units in 1998, there will be only "modest to low interest" in Windows 98 upgrades, approximately 5.5 million units. Windows NT shipments will continue to accelerate, as the OS continues making inroads against Unix in the enterprise arena. Later on, the OS will begin to supplant Windows 98 in the small office-home use sector, the study stated.
Microsoft is offering nuts-and-bolts reasons for going with NT 4.0, as well.
Conflicts that could arise in upgrading from Windows 98 to NT 5.0, for example, include registry problems and the possible loss of application settings and configurations, according to Craig Beilinson, Microsoft product manager.
"We don't think it's logical [for] users to do nothing," Beilinson said of users waiting for NT 5.0 instead of upgrading to NT 4.0 now.
Another reason that Microsoft is giving users to upgrade to NT 4.0 now instead of later is to ensure they will have a year-2000-compliant operating system up and running before the decade is out. However, another analyst said Microsoft must be careful on this front.
"Microsoft is being quite cautious in trying not to look opportunistic with [year 2000]," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies in Boston. "They're worried there will be a backlash."
Microsoft maintains that many of the barriers standing in NT Workstation 4.0's initial release, such as a lack of plug-and-play capability and significantly fewer drivers than Windows 95, have since been removed. This week the company issued a white paper guiding corporations
toward NT Workstation 4.0, recommending that users buying new PCs choose ones with at least a 200-MHz Pentium processor, a minimum of 64MB of RAM -- foreshadowing NT 5.0's requirements -- and support for the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, or ACPI.
Also, later this year Microsoft will release a System Preparation Tool for Windows NT Workstation 4.0, which is designed to help companies deploy the client OS by cleaning up the disk ghosting and software duplication processes.
Microsoft said more than 15 million NT Workstation licenses have been sold, sparked by a 36 percent increase in the past seven months.
Nevertheless, Microsoft can't rely on NT 4.0's popularity to avoid delivering NT 5.0 in a timely manner, Dataquest's LeTocq said.
Bob Trott is a senior editor and Cara Cunningham is Client/Server editor for InfoWorld.
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