While the din of giggles following the NT 5.0 name change distracts everyone, Em remembers to ask, "Where's the product?"

Good Gravy!

While the din of giggles following the NT 5.0 name change distracts everyone, Em remembers to ask, "Where's the product?"

Back in Auntie’s debutante days (no cracks about the Coolidge administration, please), young Em and her pals would collapse into hysterical giggle fits at the slightest provocation. Just one sideways glance from Poinsettia McAllandale in Home Ec could set it off, like when Miss Farquar was explaining what giblets were. A whispered “giblets!” and the whole class would slowly collapse in poorly suppressed gigglesnortguffawchortle mania. Miss Farquar would stand there, her pointer between the gizzard and the liver, and sigh, “All right, girls, get it out of your system and let’s get back to work.” After a few minutes, the laughter would trail off into scattered snickers, and we’d get down to serious gravy science.

I’m reminded of this, not out of senile dementia, but by some of the published reactions to Microsoft renaming NT 5.0 as Windows 2000. Some members of the computer and general press were stunned that Microsoft would rename a product for marketing purposes. The gigglesnorts started right away. “Windows 2000?” “Win Oh Oh!” “Why 2K?” “Is 2000 the number of hotfixes available before the product’s even released?” “Windows 2000, Consumers 0.” The gags propagated so fast that I hope NASA’s looking into the process as a potential faster-than-light drive.

This goddess, however, took it all in with a keen sense of bewilderment. Personally, I don’t give an fdisk what Redmond calls the OS, although if they named it after me, I’d gratefully accept the royalties.

I’m more concerned about the “when” than the “what.” Win2K’s been in the works longer than a Congressional investigation. By the time this is published, you might have Beta 3 in your hands (or Beta 2 of Beta 3, or Release Candidate 7 of Beta 5 of Beta 3, or not).

To no one’s surprise, conflicting forces are at work: Microsoft’s desire to release as lump-free a product as possible vs. the need to get that gravy on the table before the guests ask for the number of the nearest Pizza Hut.

Industry pundits, who never invite me to their Christmas parties, spent a lot of ink at the end of ’98 decrying Win2K as vaporware. I have some problems with that label. Classic vaporware never hits the streets in anything but a press release and is never seen on a monitor other than one closely controlled by the originating company. Yet, Win2K/NT5 has been out in beta for some time now and it’s not difficult to get a copy. Mom got hers and she’s generally happy, though a little cranky with getting the Active Directory set up properly.

Vaporware, no. An excruciatingly long birthing process, yes. Wouldn’t that be a fun Web site stunt? (“Operating System to be Born Live on Internet—Threat or Menace?”) Redmond is betting the farm on Win2K, and I can only imagine the pressure inside the bunkers to get it right and do it fast. Pity they’re mutually exclusive, isn’t it?

Windows 2000 will be released some day, hopefully before Auntie’s trucked off to the Home for Exceptionally Disoriented Scribes. We know that as soon as it comes out, it’ll instantly be stuck with a big “Flawed” label and Service Pack 1 will already be in beta. Microsoft will never catch all the flaws in Win2K’s 697 kajillion lines of code. Live with it.

As Miss Farquar would put it, “Get it out of your system, class.” Me, I can accept the minor bugs as long as Microsoft catches the showstoppers before locking in the OS code. I hope that’s not wishful thinking. Give us stable, not perfect, and we’ll cope. But give us a shrink-wrapped product this year, OK? It’s getting a bit difficult to convince customers that Windows 2000 is worth waiting for, not to mention trying to develop applications based on a work-in-progress.

Make the gravy already, Bill.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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