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Dell to offer free Windows 2000 upgrades

The computer maker isn't the first to offer a free upgrade to the Windows 2000 operating system, but it's the first to span the entire PC line--laptops, desktops, and workstations.

Dell Computer will tomorrow begin offering free upgrades to the Windows 2000 operating system for every computer ordered with Windows NT 4.

Dell isn't the first PC manufacturer to offer a free Windows 2000 upgrade, but it's the first to span the entire PC line--laptops, desktops, and workstations.

Windows NT 4 is Microsoft's operating system designed for power users and corporate customers. It is more crash-resistant than consumer-oriented Windows 98, but it requires a speedier computer with more memory. Windows 2000, formerly Windows NT 5, is the successor to Windows NT 4.

As previously reported, Microsoft is not expected to ship Windows 2000 to PC manufacturers before the end of year, with wide availability expected during the first quarter.

Dell joins Hewlett-Packard and other PC manufacturers offering free upgrades, in a sign they are increasingly confident Microsoft will ship Windows 2000. The software is in the final stages of testing, with Release Candidate 2 due for shipment within the next two weeks.

Dell's free upgrade program is good for Windows NT 4 systems purchased from tomorrow to the end of February 2000. Eligible systems incude: OptiPlex corporate PCs, Dimension consumer and small business PCs, Inspiron and Latitude notebooks, and Precision WorkStations.

Dell will include an upgrade kit with each copy of Windows 2000, which comes with driver and system software updates.

The program is designed for early adopters, which Dell predicts won't be the corporate customers that Windows 2000 is designed for. Dell is betting that a large number of sophisticated consumers and small businesses will move first.

"I think that it will help them adopt Windows 2000 right away, because they don't have the same issues as our corporate customers do," said Carol Rylander, senior product marketing manager at Dell. "They are more careful about turning their entire corporate environment to a new platform."