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NT 5.0 won't ship by mid-1998

The ship date for the much-anticipated Windows NT 5.0 operating system from Microsoft, as murky as it's been, is pushed back.

LAS VEGAS--The ship date for the much-anticipated Windows NT 5.0 operating system from Microsoft (MSFT), as murky as it's been, has been pushed back.

During a press conference convened at Comdex to discuss the latest version of the company's Exchange server-based messaging package, Rich Tong, vice president of marketing for Microsoft's personal and business systems group, said a second beta for the OS will be released in the first half of next year. An initial beta was released in September.

Various Microsoft executives had previously pegged the release date for the production version of NT 5.0 within the first half of next year and in the 1998 calendar year. Most analysts who follow the OS believed those predictions to be rosy due to the complex nature of the enhancements that will appear in the software.

Anticipation for the release of Windows NT 5.0 is high within the company and in the ever-growing NT customer base. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and other executives have said the release represents the one of the most important introductions in the company's history, a rollout the company is "betting on." NT 5.0 represents the first version of the OS that will include a multidomain directory for large networks--an administrative feature many believe will be a prerequisite for mission-critical networks going forward.

Now the question may be whether NT 5.0 gets out the door before the end of 1998. Some analysts have surmised that given the state of the first beta of the OS, the official launch could seep into 1999.

Separately, Tong also reiterated that a third beta for Windows 98 will be released before the end of this year, with production shipment of a final version due in the first half of next year.