Windows 2000, released a year ago, has been catching on more slowly than the Redmond, Wash., company had hoped, but a less-widely known version has been growing in popularity. It's a version that computer makers modify for server appliances, special-purpose servers that don't need many of the features required by full-fledged general-purpose servers.
IBM, Compaq Computer and Maxtor use this server appliance version in various products, a Microsoft spokeswoman said, and Dell Computer recently introduced a data storage server that uses it.
Microsoft has released a beta, or test, of the second version of the product, the company said. Companies selling server appliances based on the product can pick and choose among various components, reducing the memory requirements and improving performance by shucking unneeded software.
One source familiar with the product said the advantages of the new version include better support for languages other than English and improved support for the Network File System popular in Unix networks.
Though Microsoft doesn't release pricing for the server appliance version, Dell and others have said they charge less per copy than for full-fledged Windows.