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Computer makers gear up for Windows 2000

It's a week before the launch, but that isn't stopping Hewlett-Packard and others from releasing new computers running the corporate operating system.

It's a week before Microsoft officially launches Windows 2000, but that isn't stopping Hewlett-Packard and other PC makers from releasing new computers running the operating system.

HP today announced that 13 models of desktop and notebook computers will be available for sale Feb. 17, the official launch date of the delayed operating system. The company also noted that it will offer businesses up to 20 free upgrades to Windows 2000 on some models.

Windows 2000 is aimed mainly at businesses, while the follow-on to Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, due to ship this spring, is targeted at the consumer market.

"Windows 2000 is a bet-the-ranch product for Microsoft," chief financial officer John Connors told attendees last week at a conference. Windows 2000 is the largest development project in the company's history.

Although figures are not available on the years-long development project, Microsoft spent $160 million on reliability testing alone, executives have said.

Hardware makers, software developers, component suppliers, service consultants, distributors and numerous others in the high-tech industry are looking to Windows 2000 to fuel technology purchasing by businesses in the months ahead. But analysts have said that many corporate customers won't make the jump to Windows 2000 until after June, when Microsoft is expected to release Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, a package of bug fixes and other software patches. Many corporate purchasers are notoriously leery of version "1.0" of any software product.

"I wouldn't be surprised if most large corporations wait until after the first service pack is released before seriously considering Windows 2000," said James Gruener, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group.

Still, the promised features and increased crash resiliency of the new operating system are expected to be appealing enough to spark interest, and purchase orders, among corporate customers.

Windows 2000: The next generation Microsoft will gain not only through sales of the OS but also from sales of Windows 2000-centric applications, such as its BackOffice server-based software. New BackOffice applications based on Windows 2000 are expected to ship shortly after the new operating system's debut.

Although other PC components have dropped in price in recent years, the same is not true for Windows operating systems. HP, for instance, will charge the same for Windows 2000 systems as it did for the same computers running Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 98.

Most PC makers will continue to offer the older operating systems on their business computers, several sources have said. In the consumer market, the conversion to Windows 98 from Windows 95 occurred nearly overnight.

Business customers, however, demand consistency and often keep buying older OSes.

Microsoft is claiming that

HP adds Windows 2000
Three of the 13 systems that will run the new OS.
notebook
HP OmniBook 4150
450-MHz Celeron, 14.1-inch active matrix display, 64MB of memory, 6GB hard drive, 24X CD-ROM
 
$2,199
desktop
HP Brio BA400
500-MHz Celeron, 64MB of memory, 48X CD-ROM drive, 10GB hard drive
 
$799
workstation
HP Kayak XM600
two 600-MHz Intel Pentium IIIs, 128MB of memory, 15GB hard drive, Matrox G250 graphics card.
 
$2,319
Windows 2000 will have better security, reliability and manageability than Windows NT, the previous version of the company's corporate operating system. Microsoft hopes that the hundreds of "dot-com" companies springing up every month will choose the improved software to run e-commerce Web sites.

Windows 2000 also will bring Microsoft up-to-date with advances in peripheral connection technologies and Net connection advancements. In particular, hardware manufacturers may see a boost in sales of Windows 2000 on notebooks because of improved power and memory management for portable computers.

HP has already been quietly offering Windows 2000 notebooks since January but has waited until now to start taking orders for desktop PCs as well. Compaq Computer, Gateway and IBM also were among those who started selling systems before the official launch, as companies angle to get their products noticed amid all the hoopla surrounding next week's launch.

Meanwhile, the open-source Linux operating system may steal some of the thunder from the Redmond, Wash.-based giant. While Microsoft is banking on Windows 2000, HP is hedging its bets that Linux is going to become an increasingly popular OS for its customers that need servers. HP's dual-OS strategy shows that Microsoft faces challenges as it looks to move more deeply into corporate data centers--once solely the domain of exorbitantly priced mainframe computers.

HP said today that it will offer Windows 2000 versions on its NetServer line of Intel-based servers. But HP also is moving to make a version of Linux available for its high-end chip family, called PA-RISC, and the company is part of an effort to make Linux available on powerful servers using Intel's first 64-bit chip, called Itanium.

The Linux operating system is particularly popular for use in controlling servers, and many see it as competing with both Windows and Unix. It was developed by Linus Torvalds and countless other programmers and has quickly found its way into the product lines of the world's biggest computing companies.