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Microsoft to open up NT Workstation

The software giant will revise Windows NT Workstation 4.0 under user pressure.

Microsoft has decided to nix a technical limitation on Windows NT Workstation 4.0 under pressure from users complaining that the company was trying to deliberately hinder its use as Internet platform.

Windows NT Workstation 4.0, currently in beta testing, is confined to ten inbound TCP/IP connections, a restriction that sharply limits its use for Internet applications such as Web, FTP, and Usenet news servers. Microsoft had defended the ten-connection limit by arguing that NT Workstation was never intended as a server platform and that users should set up Web sites on Workstation's big brother, Windows NT Server.

But NT users cried foul, saying Workstation is a fine server platform for small corporate intranets. Some users accused Microsoft of trying to force-feed them the more expensive NT server platform, which comes with an integrated Web server.

One outraged developer of an NT Web server complained that Microsoft's limit was artificial because no such restriction was built into the existing and older versions of NT Workstation. The current version of NT Workstation costs $290 while NT Server costs $999.

"No previous version of NT Workstation has contained this limitation," Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly and Associates, wrote in an email to press and analysts sent last week. "Of course, this effectively eliminates NT Workstation as an option for Internet or Intranet Web server usage." O'Reilly makes the WebSite server.

"This move by Microsoft will hurt the efforts of Web developers, intranet developers, and Internet service providers, a great many of whom have been happy to create sites on NT Workstation," O'Reilly added.

Although it is removing the ten-user limit, Microsoft said last Friday that NT Server is still the best bet for running Web servers and that it will introduce a "compelling upgrade" for Workstation users that want to migrate to NT Server. Both NT Server and Workstation 4.0 are expected to ship later this summer. Pricing for the products has not been announced.

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