Will SP1 for Win 2000 make life sweet for Microsoft?

As predicted and eagerly expected, Windows 2000's first service pack (SP1) has arrived

The original guestimate was June, so in terms of “Microsoft time”, this isn’t too bad. Of course, the appearance of SP1 prompted a flurry of calls from journalists, all asking if its arrival would encourage business to move on and up from the early settling-in process for Windows 2000.

Take-up for the product hasn’t has been as rapid as Microsoft would have wished and in part, this may be a consequence of the “once bitten, twice shy” attitude of many experienced IT managers where any “point zero” release of any new Microsoft operating system is involved.

Ironically, Windows 2000 has actually set a new precedent for Microsoft. The level of beta-testing was so thorough, so intensive, that the final, shrink-wrapped product actually delivered to expectation – well, almost. Total perfection in this case would have demanded a pact with the devil, and even Microsoft isn’t up for that quite yet.

Perhaps the good news is that Windows 2000 has now been out in the wild for enough time to reveal that it’s solid enough for even the most cynical of network administrators to risk poking their heads up over the top of the trench long enough to catch a copy of the CD that’s coming their way.

In classic Microsoft-speak, SP1 “improves” rather than fixes “applications and hardware compatibility, security, operating system reliability and set-up”.

SP1 sounds suspiciously like Microsoft’s equivalent of a Halford’s rally pack for a Ford Focus. But lets dwell a little longer on the hardware compatibility issues instead.

Given the alleged enthusiasm that Microsoft’s partners had for Windows 2000, the level of third-party driver support has wandered between confused and pathetic.

Having been given the accolade of being one of the industry’s most negative journalists, I’m going to be positive for once. The reality is that even without the service pack, there’s little or no complaint coming out of The Microsoft Forums.

The truth is that Microsoft started the past decade as a “wannabe” network operating system supplier and finished it as a mature enterprise OS innovator.

Windows 2000 will never be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but at least today customers have a wider choice of alternatives and this should make for a more co-operative and accident-prone Microsoft. I hope.

Simon Moores is chairman of The Research Group.

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