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Microsoft prepares fixes, updates for Windows 2000

Many large companies are indicating they will not consider adopting the new operating system until a collection of fixes has been released.

With a couple of weeks remaining before the official release of Windows 2000, Microsoft is already preparing a package of fixes and updates, sources say.

The fixes, called Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, will apparently be released in June, timed to coincide with the release of Windows 2000 DataCenter edition. DataCenter is the highest-end edition of the operating system, designed to run data-intensive Web and e-commerce servers. It will also include a service pack code-named Asteroid, sources say.

Service packs, or SPs, are a collection of bug fixes and feature enhancements issued as routine updates to original software releases. This particular service pack, however, may have more significant implications because many large companies have indicated they will not consider adopting the new operating system until it has been released.

Windows 2000 SP1 will be available as a free download from the Microsoft Web site in June and will be much smaller than any previous service packs, according to an email report from Paul Thurrott, publisher of a daily Windows newsletter.

Thurrott first reported earlier this week the consolidation of two future operating system development projects within Microsoft, an internal reorganization that the company confirmed occurred very recently.

A Microsoft representative declined to comment on the timing of the first service pack, citing a policy of not commenting on rumors. Windows 2000 DataCenter will be released four months after the official release of Windows 2000 Workstation, the representative said, in June.

Windows 2000 is Microsoft's upcoming operating system for corporate computer users, and the company's most ambitious--and delayed--software development project to date. Envisioned as the centerpiece to Microsoft's business and consumer strategies, it is hoped that Windows 2000 will serve as the backend to a universe of computers and devices running on Microsoft client software using Microsoft Internet services.

Analysts said the four-month delay between the official release of Windows 2000 and the service pack is well within the normal course of operating system releases, especially one as involved as Windows 2000.

"It's not that unusual," said Dwight Davis, an analyst with Summit Strategies. "Part of the problem for Microsoft is they have to freeze the code well in advance of it getting into people's hands--creating an OS is a never-ending task."

While the update to Windows 2000 may be a non-event in terms of software development, it could encourage some companies to upgrade their corporate computers and servers, Davis said.

"I don't think the news of a service pack will really have a major impact one way or another, but it's probably a factor in Microsoft's thinking," he said. "I don't think it would have driven them to release it sooner than they would have. But it's never bad advice to wait for a new operating system to get some of the kinks worked out."

SP1 will be a much smaller file size than other service packs because it will not include anything other than necessary bug fixes, according to Thurrott. Recent service releases from Microsoft for Windows 98 have generated some amount of controversy because they have included new functionality and features, which typical service packs do not usually offer.

"Windows 2000 SP1 will contain only the most crucial fixes, and no added fluff," according to Thurrott.

The Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that SP1 for Windows 2000 will be "slipstreamable," which means that the Windows 2000 installation will automatically include all of the bug fixes included in the service release.

"It's probably fair to say that the bulk of people--because of the scope of Windows 2000, plus it being a new OS--will be cautious rather than rash in adopting the new OS," Davis concluded.