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Compaq demos Windows 2000

The Comdex demonstration is the first indication that Microsoft's partners are in lockstep with the company as it prepares the next OS.

LAS VEGAS--Compaq Computer is demonstrating Windows 2000-ready PCs at Comdex this week, the first indication that Microsoft's partners are in lockstep with the company as it prepares for the launch of its next-generation operating system.

Windows 2000, previously known as Windows NT 5.0, is expected to launch in mid-1999, although it may not arrive until much later in the year. Microsoft will market four different versions: a desktop computer version and three different versions for servers, which vary according to price, performance, and the number of processors that the OS will accommodate.

At Comdex, Compaq is showing DeskPro corporate computers with the new operating system at the booth that belongs to IEEE 1394, a group dedicated to pushing the acceptance of the high-speed connection technology.

The momentum for Windows 2000 has picked up at Comdex, as PC vendors begin to publicly jump on the bandwagon. Earlier this week, Microsoft and most major PC makers announced the minimum system requirements necessary to ensure today's corporate PCs will run Windows 2000 when it arrives.

"This is to prevent the dating of PCs, so companies can stay ahead of the curve," said Craig Bielenson, product manager for Windows 2000. "It also combats the image of having to buy new PCs for Windows 2000."

Microsoft may be trying to avoid some of the controversy of the Windows 98 launch last summer, when PC makers posted warnings on their sites indicating that many older systems would not upgrade to Windows 98 despite meeting the minimum requirements.

Computers shipping today that have Windows NT Workstation 4.0 preinstalled, at least 64MB of RAM, and a 300-MHz processor should upgrade to Windows 2000 without problems.

"This is not a guarantee--these are not the minimum requirements," said Bielenson, who noted that less robust systems also may upgrade smoothly.

Compaq is showing Deskpros running Windows 2000 Professional Edition on IEEE 1394 compliant hard drives from Maxtor, Seagate, and Fujitsu.

1394 chipsets transfer data at much faster rates than similar technologies, which makes transferring large image files from digital cameras, VCRs, and camcorders more practical. Additionally, 1394 peripherals offer true "plug-and-play" connections, similar to Universal Serial Bus, which is a slower connection.

Hard-drive vendors have been slow to publicly announce 1394 hard drives, and Comdex is the first time such drives have been shown.

Compaq chose to show the Windows 2000 Professional edition at Comdex because that is "the most mainstream version," Bielenson said.