Software support lags Windows 2000 effort
(IDG) -- Well aware that an operating system is only as good as the applications that run on it, Microsoft is turning up the heat on ISVs to get behind Windows 2000 with months to go before the release.
Despite planning to spend almost $48 million on this effort, the software giant expects only 10 applications to fit the criteria of so-called "vision applications" that exploit specific new Windows 2000 technologies when the OS debuts later this year.
And as Microsoft already knows, customers buy an operating system only when they have applications that need it.
"We buy applications, not platforms," said Eric Kuzmack, a lead IT analyst at Gannett Publishing, in Silver Springs, Md., and an InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board member. "If the applications don't run on Windows 2000, then we won't buy it. Just because a new operating system is out doesn't mean we are going to buy it. The third-party apps will need to support it."
According to internal Microsoft documents, the number of Windows 2000 applications will increase significantly in the months following the release. But analysts say the onus is on Microsoft to spur development, or the software giant may suffer weak adoption rates early on.
"They promised so much with this software that it'll be very difficult to back down," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.
Dan Frumin, lead marketing manager of Microsoft's Developer Relations Group, insists the company is off to a good start.
More than 500 ISVs worldwide have signed up for a Windows 2000-ready program, representing some 1,100 products, Frumin said.
According to the internal documents, those applications are divided into three categories: planned, or applications from companies that pledge to support Windows 2000; tested, or applications that are proven compatible with Windows 2000; and certified, also called "vision" applications, which will leverage Component Object Model+ (COM+), Active Directory, and other new technologies. Vision applications will gain a coveted Windows 2000 logo and comarketing opportunities with Microsoft -- "extra love," in the Redmond, Wash.-based company's words.
The main reason application support is slow-going is that Microsoft is holding vendors to a high standard for Windows 2000 compatibility, Frumin said.
"We've never had [logo programs] that were anywhere near this technically rigorous," Frumin said. "It was significant in the past, but it was easier to get that certification then than getting certified will be in the future."
According to one ISV, the specifications for logo certification have yet to be completed and are slated for Version 1.0 by July.
In addition, the complex web of interdependency among ISVs tends to stall the process of certification. Many software vendors rely on one or more third-party vendors for critical application components.
"One of the problems we've encountered is that some tools vendors are not as far along as we are," said Rick Kamp, product planner in the EcoTools group at Compuware, in Farmington Hills, Mich. "It will be a problem gaining certification when there are no tools available."
Kamp said Microsoft is very aware of vendors lagging and is working to expedite their efforts.
For customers who are concerned about the compliance status of their favorite applications, Microsoft is providing an ongoing catalog of Windows 2000-ready products at www.microsoft.com/windows2000/ready.
The code's complexity is another issue. Depending on the person you are talking to at Microsoft, Windows 2000 is made up of anywhere from 50 to 80 percent brand-new code, Kusnetzky said.
That is making corporations -- already dealing with year-2000 woes, tight budgets, and other issues -- wary of quickly adopting the operating system.
"It's sort of a one-way process that makes it difficult to do migration and interoperability," Kusnetzky said. "If you're doing much rewriting of your code for COM+, you can't write [to COM] there. If you're writing Active Directory applications, Active Directory apps can't run on NT 4.0."
Dan Briody is an InfoWorld editor at large. Bob Trott is a Seattle-based senior editor at InfoWorld. Ed Scannell also contributed to this article.
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