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Windows 2000 compatibility still an issue

As Windows 2000 enters the last phase of testing, Microsoft is still hammering out compatibility guidelines for third-party software applications.

    As Windows 2000 enters the last phase of testing, Microsoft is still hammering out compatibility guidelines for third-party software applications.

    The software giant plans to release a series of application guidelines in conjunction with the release of a final test version of Windows 2000, the company's bid for a larger chunk of corporate computing dollars.

    A third test version, or beta, of the Windows 2000 upgrade, formerly known as Windows NT 5.0, is due next month.

    Microsoft executives said the new initiative, dubbed the Windows 2000-based Application and Developer Readiness Program, is intended to give developers the information they will need to make sure their new and existing applications will run effectively on the revised version of the operating system.

    A draft version of the Windows 2000 application specification is available on the company's Web site.

    The guidelines include information on how to take advantage of new technologies found in Windows 2000 like Active Directory or the Windows Installer service.

    The company claims to have worked for more than a year with developers in order to deliver the appropriate tools and information so that programmers can build or update application software that runs on top of the operating system.

    "We are making changes in Windows 2000 that will affect developers," said Craig Beilinson, a Windows 2000 product manager.

    "The goal here is to provide a quantum leap in reliability and manageability. In the short-term, there is work to be done," Beilinson said.

    Von Jones, vice president of development, at Mission Critical Software, which makes systems management software that runs on Windows, said the new guidelines make it clear what the software giant expects third-party developers to do.

    He said "the guidelines act as a roadmap for developers to follow." Although the program was announced yesterday, he said the relationship with Microsoft and the theme of the new guidelines has "been going on for a while. It's an evolutionary process. As they become more committed to dates, they know more of what they want from us."

    There have been reports that a significant portion of existing applications built for Windows NT 4.0, the current version of the software, will not be compatible with the forthcoming Windows 2000 upgrade.

    Some believe the developer information from Microsoft is long in coming, given the extended period Microsoft has dedicated to refining its delayed Windows 2000 upgrade. ""I don't think they've done a good job of publicizing or educating people about this thing," said Dwight Davis, analyst with industry consultants Summit Strategies.

    Central to compatibility issues are new reliability and manageability features that may require programmers to tweak software code related to Windows' Dynamic Link Libraries, or DLLs, a technology that has at times frustrated developers, for example.

    In addition to the published guidelines, Microsoft plans to offer online support, courses for developers, and testing labs to third parties.

    Microsoft's developer program currently includes more than 8,000 third party developers, according to the company.

    News.com's Erich Luening contributed to this report.