Windows 2000 starts out against the wind
Government investigations, bug reports tales of horror and strong competition: Linux
February 22, 2000
The sale of Windows 2000 is beginning punctually in Germany on February 24 at the Cebit computer fair. There is a danger, at least propagandistically, that it will be a false start. Sympathies are with Linux, the non-commercial system.
by Rainer Klueting
The market researchers of Gartner Group business consulting recommend that Windows 2000 not be installed immediately, but that people wait for the first "Service Release" in which the most glaring errors are cleaned up. In the meantime, Gartner recommends taking a closer look at "open source software," one of which is the Linux operating system. "Open source" means that the software is basically free and that the programming code - called "source code" - has been published.
In their "Research Notes of January 18, published on the internet under http://gartner12.gartnerweb.com/public/static/hotc/hc00085832.html, the authors from Gartner wrote, "Contrary to a widely held view, the development of open-source programming is neither something new, nor is it a passing phenomenon. Rather it is taking hold in an increasing measure among commercial providers and consumer organizations. We recommend that all EDP organizations who currently do not buy open-source software on matters of principle to take a second look at their purchasing principles."
Gartner names several reputable corporations who actively support the open-source movement today: IBM, Apple, O'Reilly and Associates and, recently showing up on the stock market, the Linux corporation, Red Hat. Besides them, in Germany there is also Star Division, the office software developer recently bought up by Sun.
Windows 2000 is competing directly with Linux - as did its predecessor, Windows NT - because it is used as a professional operating system for networking systems, among other things. Linux is especially favored in this market segment because it is regarded as dependable and flexible. Linux organizations have seized the 17th of February, the date of the official start of Windows 2000 in the USA, as an opportunity to put together a Linux information day. The explicit goal is to distribute information on the advantages of Linux to partner companies and publicly accessible locations, but not to specifically alienate Windows 2000.
For instance, the "Linux User Group Stuttgart" (LUG-S), together with Linux providers, distributed a trimmed down demonstration version of Linux. They point out the advantages, but not the disadvantages and possible sticky problems with the installation of Linux on their informational pages on the internet (lugs.faveve.uni-stuttgart.de/veranstaltungen and www.lug-s.org). There is said to be "little commercial software" that runs under Linux, not all PC hardware is supported, and one can run into "the danger of falling flat if one always wants to have the absolute latest." Example: the "universal serial bus" (USB), which has since become a standard in all new PCs, is not currently supported in Linux. Reason: many developers do not wish to publish the technical specifications of their devices. Also scanners and portable disk drives ["Wechsellaufwerke"] which operate from the computer's parallel port (printer connection) do not work with Linux or work only with restrictions.
Support for Linux is also growing among corporations. Certainly it was no accident that on this day, of all days, computer CPU producer Intel criticized Windows 2000 as being slow. A processor of at least 250 megahertz was needed, said Intel Vice President Pat Gelsinger publicly, thereby contradicting Microsoft's statement that the new system would also run well on a 133 megahertz Pentium computer.
With Windows 2000, Microsoft is explicitly targeting professional customers. The price alone shows that: the smallest version, Windows 2000 Professional, costs more than 800 marks in Germany; conversion from Windows NT will rate an entry of at least 350 marks on the books, and conversions from Windows 95 or 98 will have to fork out 550 marks or more.
The cheapest one can get the system is with the purchase of a new computer. That way you can also be sure that the system also runs. That means some older PC components will not function with the newcomer; especially critical is the older ISDN hardware and software. People who value computer games are better advised to wait for the "Windows Millennium Edition," the Windows 98 successor which is supposed to come out later this year.
It is because Windows 2000 is supposed to be the operating system for the professional that the reports which have been making the rounds in the past few weeks are catastrophic. News agencies like "Newsticker" and technical magazine "c't" cite "Smart Reseller," a technical trade paper which refers to internal reports from the house of Microsoft. It was said that Marc Lucovsky, one of Microsoft's development directors, wrote that Windows 2000 still had 63,000 deficiencies. These deficiencies were said to have meant that "real problems" could arise. These deficiencies are reflected in tests distributed by computer magazines. For instance, the system fails when the ACPI energy saver technology is activated.
Not least of all, Windows 2000 has fallen under the skeptical interest of agencies in several European countries. One component of the system comes from a Scientology company. The component serves to clean up the hard disk - to defragment it - and therefore it has access to all the files. Bavarian State Assembly SPD Representative Monica Lochner-Fischer has placed a parliamentary inquiry asking whether Bavarian governmental agencies may implement Windows under that condition. Since then Microsoft has agreed to letting the "Federal Office for Security in Information Technology" (BSI) review the program code.
Swiss authorities believe Windows 2000 is too expensive and they are reviewing Microsoft's pricing politics. EU commercial competition commissioner Maria Monti is investigating complaints that Microsoft has arranged network functions in Windows 2000 so that they will work only with software which comes from the House of Microsoft.
A French importer is also suing in an EU court over competition obstacles. The corporation bought a French language Microsoft program in Canada because it was cheaper there. Microsoft's French branch company prohibited the sale of this import. Last week, an EU court stated the importer's complaint was justified, thereby forcing the EU Commission to take the case.
The French are happy over the decision: one initiative in the French Senate aims to have only software with free source code installed in all government agencies by the year 2002; the Culture Ministry is already converting to Linux.
Windows 2000 and Linux will also be in head-to-head competition at Cebit - in a big way: Microsoft is making its presentation in Hall 6, the Linux environment has its own pavilion in Hall 6.