The Redmond, Washington-based software giant is debuting two new Web sites to provide consumers and IT developers with information on products' Year 2000 compliance and advice, and an enhanced Y2K Resource CD, which includes product updates and Y2K analysis tools.
The CD, which is upgraded quarterly, is now available free of charge, and can be subscribed to over the Y2K Web site, or by calling 888/MSFT-Y2K (673/8925). The two new Web sites, on the other hand, will launch in June, and can be accessed through the general Y2K Web site, the company said.
The announcement marks a continuing effort by the company to broaden its Year 2000 initiative, which had earlier focused on testing its products. Customers and analysts criticized the initiative for being delayed.
Microsoft said it is also offering a 120-day evaluation version of System Management Server 2.0 to the 18,500 Microsoft Solution Providers (MCSPs) that sell, support, and develop Microsoft business systems. This version will include a database with compliance information for Microsoft products, Year 2000 queries, a report that graphically displays the number of systems in each compliance category, and a Y2K training course.
The Microsoft official curriculum training course on how to use System Management Server 2.0 for Year 2000 compliance analysis will be downloadable free of charge by the end of the month. The offer will enable the channel to help customers with inventorying hardware and software, and compliance analysis, the company said.
Microsoft said the timing of the release and what has been provided in the new Y2K initiative follows the interests of its customers.
"At the end of the day consumers just want to know if their computers are OK," said Don Jones, Microsoft's Year 2000 product manager. "These new tools do this."
The new consumer oriented Web site allows users to access information on products, and upgrade them if need be, through an intuitive interface. The site also includes information on hardware and software analysis and resources to help customers review personal data, such as letters or spreadsheets, for potential Year 2000 vulnerability.
"While it's designed for the consumer to prepare their home computers, businesses have told us they could use it to communicate the scope of the Year 2000 challenge to PC users within their organizations," Jones said.
The new Web site for developers provides more detailed technical information, Jones said.
Targeted at those customers who don't have Web access, the new version of the Resources CD provides customers with white papers and Microsoft Excel plug-ins, product updates for the Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 operating systems, as well as Office 95, Office 97, and Microsoft 4.5a. The Microsoft Year 2000 Product Analyzer, released last month, is also included on the CD. The Analyzer allows customers to scan their computer's hard drive or mapped network drives, look for core Microsoft products, and generate a report with compliance information.
Starting in June, the company will also conduct Year 2000 customer and developer workshops that consist of half-day presentations to assist customers in preparing a Year 2000 remediation plan. In the workshop, customers will assess their Y2K data and learn a how to use third-party tools and Microsoft plug-ins to change two-digit dates to four-digit dates.