After catching heat from its user base, Microsoft
today launched its
anticipated revamped Web
and strategy dedicated to the Year 2000 problem, highlighting date
bugs in some of its big name products like Windows 95, Office
95, and Office 97.
The strategy and Web site sorts the Redmond, Washington-based
software giant's products into five different categories based on how
compliant each is. Microsoft's definition of compliance also appears on the site.
In addition, the company provides a product guide which gives the
same information for its Windows, Office, Back Office, and other products,
said Jason Matusow, the company's Year 2000 strategy manager.
Of the products tested, the vast majority are compliant or
compliant with "minor issues" that are now documented, he said. Out of all
the software giant's products only three--Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS 5.0,
and Office Professional 4.3--are not Year 2000 compliant. However,
products that are compliant with "minor issues" include widely used
products like Windows NT server and workstation 4.0, Windows 95, Office 4.0
Standard, and both Office 95 and 97 standard and professional editions.
The second category, compliant with "minor issues," will comprise
products that have an outstanding date issue, but whose core functionality
affected. "For example, in the old Windows for work groups 3.11 you can't
set the date to be a leap year with the mouse, but with the keyboard you
can," Matusow explained.
In addition, if the product guide specifies that a fix or service
pack is needed for compliance, the company will provide it for free,
"It is a simple issue that there is no simple fix for," he told
analysts and reporters today. "We have published a Year 2000 resource
center on the Web to help customers," with their solutions for the Year
Analysts said the effort is late in the game and marks a change in the
company's expectations for Windows 98 adoption. Microsoft's Windows version
3.1 needs some adjustments to be fully Year 2000 compliant, and the company
has had to issue patches to make Windows 95 Y2K ready.
"Microsoft was a little slow in getting to market with this issue," said Tom
Oleson, an analyst with International
Data Corporation. "My sense is they didn't understand what people
wanted. They thought people would migrate to Windows 98 by 2000,
but they've discovered that a lot [of companies] are happy with
3.1 and don't want
He said if a service pack or patch is needed, a product will be
listed with that prerequisite under the heading.
After the compliant, and compliant with "minor issues"
categories, the third rating is for those products that are not compliant, while
the fourth will consist of those that are still undergoing testing. The
final category will be for products Microsoft "will not test," Matusow said.
For the products that are not Year 2000 compliant, such as Word 5
for DOS, the guide explains why and gives recommended steps to
take to achieve compliance. The resource center also provides information about the steps
customers should take to identify and reduce their exposure to software
problems related to the millennium bug.
In the initial phase of the new Web site and strategy release,
will address the Year 2000 as it affects its core products, he said. "As
testing continues, we will add to the site." A home-user resource guide
will be posted on the site soon, he said, though he did not say when.
Microsoft will also release a directory of tools which can provide
assistance for testing, renovation of code, and
compliance methodology. The company wants to direct its customers to
"companies that have specific tools for specific issues," Matusow said.
Oleson said Microsoft is responding to its installed base who have been
waiting for direction on this issue for sometime.
When asked why a sophisticated technology company like Microsoft, like many
others in the industry, has products that were released just last year
that have problems related to Year 2000, Matusow defended his company and
the industry as providing products that reflect the way customers process
"People think and work in two digit dates. Computers think the
way people work."