By William Fellows
Microsoft Corp is on course to release the beta 3 of Windows 2000 on April 21 according to Credit Suisse First Boston analysts briefed by Redmond executives. Windows 2000 proper should follow around six months later, which means late fall or early next year, CSFB figures. The 64-bit version, initially on Alpha, will follow three months later giving Compaq Computer Corp an opportunity to drive a lead in the market for 64-bit NT before Intel Corp’s Merced debuts in system later next year. If Merced slips further then Compaq will gain more momentum. CSFB says there’s no evidence to suggest NT is losing ground to Sun and that it is still growing strongly. It believes Microsoft is seriously under estimating the consumer demand for Windows 2000. Noting Windows 2000’s multitasking features CSFB notes people want machines that don’t go down. CSFB believes the new name Microsoft has hung on the Windows 2000 desktop version – Windows 2000 Desktop Professsional – indicates that it is likely to create a dedicated consumer version that might see the light of day in the first half of 2001. Microsoft is expected to ensure Office 2000 gets to manufacturing this month or coupon deferral by large corporations could cost it up to $1bn, CSFB observes.