Microsoft is changing the way it helps its customers deal with
the Year 2000 technology problem, a company representative said.
In response to customer demand and criticism by industry analysts, the
software behemoth is revamping its Year 2000 strategy by adding tools and
services that will work to address six key "layers" of Y2K compliance: the
BIOS/Real Time Clock, hardware, applications, documents,
custom code, and data interface, the company said.
Although further details on the new Y2K plan will be announced in
mid-December, Don Jones, Microsoft's Year 2000 product manager, said yesterday that the tools will come from Microsoft, its partners, and third-party tool vendors.
The company will provide the software on its Year 2000
Resource Center Web site and via CD-ROM.
In addition, for customers with limited Web access, the company has announced a toll-free number for Microsoft customers dealing with the Year 2000 technology problem: 1-888-MSFT-Y2K.
"We're not going to be able to provide tools for all layers, but we will
help customers find the right tool for their needs," said Jones.
A lot of the tools will be built on top of Microsoft's Systems Management
Server (SMS) 2.0, Jones said.
"SMS is designed for this type of thing. It
features auto distribution of hot patches and fixes," he noted.
As reported earlier, final shipment of
SMS 2.0, previously code-named Opal, is now scheduled for the fourth quarter
of this year.
In addition to tools, Jones said a Microsoft worldwide Y2K seminar series
will kick off sometime in January.
The Year 2000 problem, or the millennium bug, boils down to this: Many
computer systems use software that tracks dates with only the last two
numbers of the year, such as "97" instead of 1997. When "00" comes up for the year 2000, many computers will view it as 1900 instead, potentially leading to failures.
Analysts hailed the new initiatives by Microsoft, saying the changes should
have been made sooner.
"They have been under some pressure to do more than just provide a list of
their products," said Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group . "You sort of
have an obligation to provide as much help as you can when you own a
majority of the software industry. This is good news for Microsoft
Isfahani's colleague at Giga, senior analyst Rob Enderle, also felt the
revamp of Microsoft's Y2K strategy was overdue. "It was slow in
coming. It would have been better [for them to do this] a year ago," he said.
The Y2K issue exposes Microsoft and other software companies that have a
huge dominance in the technology industry to almost limitless criticism and
possible litigation if they don't at least appear to take the issue
seriously and provide solutions for their huge customer base. "They need to
do as much as possible," said Enderle. "It's better to go beyond what is
expected of them to do."
In April, the software giant first launched the much-anticipated,
revamped Web site and strategy dedicated to the Y2K problem, highlighting
date bugs in some of its most popular products, such as Windows 95, Office 95, and Office 97.
The strategy and Web site sorts the Redmond, Washington-based software
giant's products into five 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 that gives the same
information for Windows, Office, Back Office, and other products.
All the changes Jones outlined will be added to the ongoing Y2K program
launched in April, he said.