Microsoft gives NT new moniker, adds server

Microsoft Corp. last week announced a major change in the marketing of the next generation of its Windows NT operating system. Starting with the next release— formerly known as 5.0— the operating system will be named Windows 2000 Built on NT Technology.

Microsoft also announced the addition of a new version of the operating system aimed at the high-end server market.

In changing the name, Microsoft hopes to affect the general perception of Windows NT from the perspective of desktop users who think of it only as a server operating system and for server users who do not think it is powerful enough to handle their high-end computing needs, company officials said.

That does not mean Microsoft is abandoning all the work that has gone into Windows NT 5.0 or the more stable image it has in comparison to Windows 95 and 98. And while Microsoft officials admit that "Built on NT Technology" probably will be dropped from everyday use, they say it is still a key part of the product.

"The important thing for people to know is that the technology has not changed," said Jay Goldstein, lead product manager for Windows NT Workstation, which is being renamed Windows 2000 Professional. "We will always be saying, 'This is still the NT kernel, still built on NT technology.' "

The operating system now will be offered in three server versions: Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter Server. The Datacenter Server supports up to 16-node systems and up to 64G of memory, according to Microsoft. Server supports two-node systems, while Advanced Server supports four nodes.

The new server is key for Microsoft, which has been trying for years to persuade businesses to use Windows NT for their large-scale data warehouses or data centers, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data Corp.

"The Datacenter product is the product we're positioning as an alternative worthy of consideration," said Ed Muth, Microsoft's enterprise marketing group manager.

The plan is for Datacenter Server to fit in with other high-end Unix and mainframe systems that users already have in place. Then, in a couple of years, when users are looking at getting new systems, Microsoft will have Datacenter in place to possibly become a replacement, Muth said.

The name change may cause Microsoft problems, Kusnetzky said. In addition to possibly alienating vendor partners who must now spend time and money changing their marketing as well, the power users may see the operating system as something less powerful than NT, even with a name like Advanced Server. "By removing the NT name, they will have to fight the perception that it is now part of the desktop family," he said.

But that is exactly the perception Microsoft wants desktop users to take away from the change by renaming Windows NT 5.0 to fall in line with the Windows 95/98 brand, Goldstein said.

"Windows 2000 Professional is the definitive desktop [operating system] for business," said Chris Barker, an architectural engineer for Microsoft Federal.

From Microsoft's point of view, the use of "2000" will help the company continue a marketing path it has used during the past few years of having the name of the operating system fall in line with the naming of Office, FrontPage and all the company's other products, Barker said.

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