Analysts, users not surprised by NT 5.0's lag
(IDG) -- Windows NT 5.0 is shaping up to be Microsoft's new year-2000 problem, because that's when several industry seers are predicting it finally will be ready for the enterprise.
"You do not want to be the first kid on the block to deploy it, so you wait six or nine months for the first service pack, then you wait for that to be proven stable," said Michael Gartenberg, analyst at the Gartner Group, in Stamford, Conn., which on Wednesday began advising customers to put off NT 5.0 until 2000.
"Windows 98 was in Beta 2 last summer, and it took them a year to get that relatively minor update out the door," Gartenberg said.
The software giant has added another formal beta cycle, its third, to the testing of NT 5.0 -- which Microsoft originally had planned to have on shelves by now. Release of Beta 2 also has been postponed, from the first half of the year to "summer," probably late July or August.
Microsoft officials insist that the additional beta plans do not mean the ship date for NT 5.0 has slipped, but they still will not commit to a time frame, saying only that it will be released when they are satisfied it is ready.
Many NT users have become resigned to the Version 5.0 lag and prefer a stable, late product to an earlier, buggy one.
"I would just as soon them ship something that is relatively bulletproof ... than try to meet some schedule and throw something out there that has major problems," said David Rossmann, executive vice president at UTSI International, an oil industry consultancy in Friendswood, Texas. "That probably means the later half of 1999, and it might put it out into 2000."
UTSI International plans to migrate its Apache Web servers, which run Linux, to NT 5.0, mainly because of the ubiquity of Windows, Rossmann said.
"Microsoft software may be less stable, but our people need to be able to add stuff to our Web site and be able to do it in a familiar environment," Rossmann said. "That [non-Windows] expertise is not spread throughout our company."
A month ago Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, Calif., warned against wholesale upgrades to NT 5.0, whenever it is available, predicting that the huge amount of new, complex code will make the technology buggy.
Microsoft should have gotten the message by now that corporations are not going to deploy NT 5.0 immediately, one analyst said.
"Because of year-2000 issues, the corporate customer base would probably put off NT 5.0 even if it was out at the end of this year," said Dwight Davis, analyst at Summit Strategies. "If Microsoft is hearing that from a high percentage of their potential buyers, that removes some of the pressure on the company to push it out sooner rather than later."
"Microsoft is pushing NT 4.0 as a year-2000 solution, and by (NT 5.0) coming out sooner rather than later, they could muddy that message," Davis said.
Senior editor Bob Trott is InfoWorld's Seattle correspondent.
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