What will Windows 2000 really cost?

Microsoft's vision of corporations migrating to Windows 2000 likely will become very clouded once IT managers realise the costs of adopting the much-anticipated technology, a study by researchers at Gartner Group asserted last week.

According to the Gartner Group's numbers, it will cost between US$1,250 and US$2,050 per desktop to migrate from Windows NT Workstation 4.0 to Windows 2000 Professional. The cost of moving from Windows 9x to Windows 2000 will be even higher, according to the report -- between US$2,015 and US$3,100 per PC.

"Enterprises must understand that TCO (total cost of ownership) reduction is not a justification for a Windows 2000 desktop migration," Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Gartner Group, said in the report. "Because of the high cost of migration, enterprises can actually lose money before they touch the first system."

Gartner Group arrived at its desktop-migration cost estimates based on a 2,500-user, networked enterprise, and did not take into account costs associated with Windows 2000 Server and implementation of its Active Directory technology.

One cost point is Windows 2000's relationship with third-party tools, according to Gartenberg.

Microsoft has put tools from other vendors in Windows 2000, and the operating system also includes the company's own tools utilities. However, "enterprises will have to continue some investments in third-party tools to shore up Windows 2000, which has some weaknesses in the areas of Active Directory, security, storage management, and server management", according to Gartner Group.

Microsoft officials were not immediately available for comment, saying they had not seen the Gartner Group report and were unsure of the analyst firm's methodology.

However, a representative pointed to a Microsoft-commissioned study, conducted by the consulting firm Arthur Anderson, indicating that while there will be costs associated with upgrading to Windows 2000 Professional, the costs will vary widely, and its "improved features" compared to previous Windows offerings "will offset the up-front investment".

"In addition to the costs of the software itself, organisations will encounter other up-front costs, including those resulting from the need for new hardware, administrator and end-user training, configuration and deployment of the new operating system, compatibility-testing, and possible re-engineering of application software," the Arthur Anderson study concluded.

Publicly, Microsoft voices optimism that Windows 2000 will be released to manufacturing before the end of 1999, although many observers said it might not be ready until early 2000 -- and Microsoft officials lately have left the door open a tad for that possibility. Release Candidate 2 of Windows 2000, originally expected last week, will be released later this month, according to the company.

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