After seven years of building brand recognition for Windows NT, Microsoft abruptly announced today that it is changing the name of the next release from Windows NT 5.0 to Windows 2000.
But despite the potential confusion that the change may cause among users, Microsoft officials claim the product will not be delayed until the year 2000. Instead, they say, the third beta test cycle will begin in the first quarter of next year. That would probably put the product on track for release sometime next summer.
Along with the general name change, Microsoft has changed the naming conventions for the various editions of NT. For instance, the desktop edition of NT, until now called NT Workstation, will now be called Windows 2000 Professional.
NT Server will have the least-changed name; it will now be known as Windows 2000 Server. However, NT Server Enterprise Edition will be renamed Windows 2000 Advanced Server.
That specific name change is particularly ironic, however, because the original edition of NT Server was named Advanced Server. The name was later changed to NT Server because the term Advanced caused a lot of users to purchase the workstation edition, which was just named Windows NT, thinking they did not need an "advanced" edition of the product.
The original meaning of the "NT" was "New Technology," a name that the company adopted after it split with IBM in September 1990 over Microsoft's enthusiasm for Windows over OS/2, which it had co-developed with IBM in the late 1980s. After the split, Microsoft kept the project that had been referred to as OS/2 3.0 or Portable OS/2, and that code was subsequently renamed Windows NT.
Microsoft VP of Windows marketing Brad Chase said the company will also create a new edition of the server for high-end use. Called Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, it will allow users to run it on symmetrical multiprocessor machines with up to 16 processors using the shrink-wrapped package, or up to 32-processors on original equipment manufacturer versions bundled on specific hardware vendors' computers.
Microsoft is also changing some of the capabilities of the other products in concert with the creation of Datacenter Server. Windows 2000 Server, for example, will work on servers with up to two processors, while Windows 2000 Advanced Server will work on machines with as many as four processors. Currently, NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition--the comparable system to Advanced Server--works on machines with up to eight processors. In addition, NT Server 4.0, which is comparable to Windows 2000 Server, supports up to four processors.
Chase did not announce any price changes. However, he said pricing for the Advanced Server product would likely be lower than for its Enterprise Edition counterpart. Still, the decrease in the number of processors each edition supports may be an indicator that Microsoft is planning to use scalability as a way to force customers to buy more expensive editions of NT Server--which could be construed to constitute a tacit price increase.
That may help lagging sales of the edition that Microsoft currently calls its Enterprise Edition server, which, according to some of the company's hardware partners, has been selling slowly. Microsoft has declined to characterize Enterprise Edition's sales except to say they are in line with expectations.