Windows 2000 a corporate player

by Alan Zisman (c) 2000. First published in Toronto Computes, February 2000

As Lynn Grenier has made apparent in her article, Windows 2000 is perhaps Microsoft?s best effort yet?with 45 million lines of computer code, it?s certainly the biggest!

But Windows 2000 isn?t for everyone. Let?s see if it?s for you (I?m only going to look at Windows 2000 Professional, the version for individual users).

-- Price: As of early January, Microsoft hasn?t committed themselves to official Canadian pricing. But if you?re used to the more or less CDN$150 to upgrade Windows 95 or 98, expect sticker shock. Inmac Canada?s current catalogue, for example, offers the chance to pre-order Windows 2000 Professional (the single-user version) for CDN$299.95 for the upgrade version, or $434.95 for non-upgraders.

-- Hardware: Microsoft suggests a minimum hardware platform of a Pentium 133 with 32 Mb of RAM. The magic word is minimum. I?d recommend about a 300 MHz processor and 64 Mb of RAM as a more realistic lower end?on such a system, it may perform better than either NT 4.0 or Windows 9x. Windows 2000 supports far more hardware peripherals?printers, modems, video cards, and the like?than its predecessor Windows NT 4.0. Plug and Play is much improved, and it adds support for USB. Still, fewer hardware devices are supported than is the case with Windows 98. Before upgrading, check on Microsoft?s Hardware Compatibility List to see if your key hardware is supported:

-- Notebooks:  You?ll find Windows 2000?s plug and play and support for hot-swapping PC Cards a big improvement over NT?s. Power management is improved as well, and owners of the newest notebooks will find it quite usable. On my 1 year old notebook, however, APM power management has failed to work as advertised? a problem that has persisted through beta and pre-release versions to the Gold Code release version.

-- Software: At Microsoft?s upgrade web site, over 2000 software products are listed as working with Windows 2000. There have been reports  about the scant handful that are listed as ?Certified for Windows 2000??a total of 5 as of January 8th. This is a bogus concern?Microsoft has upped the requirements for certification (and about time!) so that even its own products aren?t listed, but the other listed applications will run as well.

But that doesn?t mean that all software will run happily under Windows 2000. Some that I?ve tried, such as Microsoft?s Encarta 98 complain during installation, but seem to run OK. Others, like the music program Mixman Studio refuse to install at all under Windows 2000 or other NT-based operating systems. Many Windows 9x utilities will need to be replaced with NT-based versions. But the big problems will be games. While Windows 2000 offers better gaming support than NT 4.0, including Direct X 7.0, its whole rationale is to keep software from getting the sort of direct hardware access and control that many games demand. Hard core gamers shouldn?t even think about it.

-- Learning curve: Windows 2000 looks and feels like Windows 98. Under the hood, its NT roots become clearer. It you?ve felt comfortable customizing Windows 95 or 98, expect some big changes. If you upgrade a Windows 9x machine that?s sharing files or printers over a peer-to-peer network, expect to have to do a fair bit of tweakingon both the server and the clients.

The bottom line: Windows 2000 is really aimed at large corporate networks. Home users, notebook users, and small business users (but not game players) may find its increased stability and security worth the expense and learning curve?if they have the right mix of hardware and software.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan