Final Windows 2000 beta ready to go

Microsoft says it is on track to release the final beta of its upgrade to Windows 2000 in April, following a series of setbacks.

Microsoft is moving closer to the release of a final test version of its Windows 2000 operating system upgrade.

The software giant plans to roll out a third and final test version, or beta, of its Windows 2000 operating system--previously known as Windows NT--in April, as previously reported. Release of the test version is expected the third week of the month, according to sources close to the company.

The spotlight is on the Redmond, Washington-based firm to finally deliver an update for its corporate-focused operating system, following several setbacks. The upgrade represents the linchpin of Microsoft's strategy to grab a larger chunk of the lucrative high-end corporate computing market.

The upgrade's final release date has been no less than a moving target. In March, the company delivered a so-called release candidate of beta three, an indication that a final beta release was near.

The third test version represents the first feature-complete version of Windows 2000, including technologies like Active Directory and several tools in the management software area.

Microsoft executives said the test release is on track. "We have stated publicly that we will ship beta three in the month of April," said Jon Perera, lead product manager for Windows 2000.

Perera said the Windows 2000 development team is also committed to a final shipment of the upgrade within the calendar year. "We're in a very good position," he said.

But Perera said a reported October date for a final release may be premature, given the nature of the development process. "Promising a date would be the wrong thing to do," he said. "There's nobody who can promise one month from another."

"Obviously, we have dates we're driving toward with our development team," he added.

The company recently disclosed plans to publicize a set of compatibility guidelines for third-party developers to build applications for Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 is a key component of Microsoft's server-side software strategy, containing software elements that future releases of the company's BackOffice application suite will take advantage of. A BackOffice update dubbed version 4.5 is currently in testing, with delivery scheduled for the second quarter of this year.

A follow-up version of BackOffice that will use technologies like Active Directory, will be released after the operating system is shipped, according to Microsoft executives.

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