SAN FRANCISCO (02/18/2000) - Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 rollout left many observers with an empty feeling.
That's because with less than 30 third-party applications officially certified for Win 2000, users and analysts say the software table is largely bare and much more work needs to be done before any real Win 2000 deployment begins.
Last week, Microsoft, after more than three years of building and hype, rolled out its long-awaited operating system, a coding giant at least twice the line size of its predecessor, Windows NT 4.0. Company Chairman Bill Gates called the operating system "the most ambitious software project ever."
But a wide variety of applications designed to take advantage of Win 2000's new features were not ready to roll out.
Microsoft says 40 applications are in the certification pipeline, and the company hopes to have 100 applications certified by year-end. Last week's opening count, however, logged in at 27.
"No, that's not a whole lot of programs to run your business on," says Donald W. Guyer, a network engineer with Citadel Federal Credit Union in Thorndale, Pa., which has 75,000 members and 11 remote offices. "It's another reason not to move to Win 2000 yet. There are a lot of applications for NT 4, and that's where we're going to be for a year or two. It's not the only reason, but it's not a bad one."
Certification means not only that an application will run on Win 2000, but also can use all of its new features, such as Active Directory, Kerberos security and public-key access. Microsoft says about 7,000 applications are compatible, meaning they won't crash on the new operating system, but they won't be able to use the new functions, which is a major reason users would spend the money to upgrade.
Part of the reason there are so few certified applications is that Microsoft did not get the final specifications to the software community and to VeriTest, the company handling the testing and certification, until last December, and VeriTest wasn't able to start testing until late January.
"Customers have a definite lack of choices," says Aileen Monahan, an analyst with Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass. "A lot of businesses don't have the resources to do their own testing. People will buy the product because they need the features."
Some industry watchers label the initial lack of applications an insignificant bump in the Win 2000 road. They say that most firms aren't expected to migrate for almost a year or more.
But Monahan notes a recent Giga study found that 40 percent of those companies surveyed planned to migrate at least a portion of their desktops this year while 33 percent wanted to do the same with their servers.
All of this brought on a rallying cry to corporate developers and a revamping of Microsoft's most popular development tool: Visual Basic.
Microsoft's plan, according to analysts and sources inside the company, is to take advantage of the wealth of Visual Basic programmers by giving the program features previously reserved for Visual C++.
Visual Basic is gaining several object-oriented capabilities, such as inheritance, polymorphism and free threading, which will make it easier for developers to build applications for the Win 2000 platform - a process generally considered much more complicated than building applications for Windows 9x or NT.