October 22, 1998 7:00 PM PDT

Ballmer downplays NT 5.0

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ATLANTA--Microsoft president Steve Ballmer has sometimes been compared to an evangelist, and here at one of the largest networking events of the year, the affable executive sang the praises and admitted the limitations of his company's corporate operating system, Windows NT.

Perhaps realizing the savvy nature of his audience, Ballmer quipped about delays in the forthcoming introduction of version 5.0--currently in a second test cycle--and openly discussed the limitations of an OS sometimes positioned as an alternative to more established corporate software, such as Unix.

Focusing on NT's management and reliability, Ballmer admitted that "we have a long ways to go.

"There's still a lot of issues, a lot of areas in which we can improve," he told an overflow crowd at the Networld +Interop industry trade show.

The executive then went through a laundry list of items that Microsoft is addressing to make NT more palatable for high-end tasks, covering a wide variety of features like Active Directory and IntelliMirror--functions that are now well known to the NT community, given the lengthy period that Microsoft has talked about its upgrade.

Ballmer did assert that NT is finding its way into even the largest networks due to a wide array of third-party software development. "Windows NT has emerged as an incredible riveting point for the development of business applications," he noted.

Ballmer's tempered words on NT seem to be part of an emerging trend toward reducing expectations for the long-delayed upgrade, which is now due sometime next year--likely in the second half.

As an aside, Ballmer said he had been meeting with customers this week and has not kept up with the company's legal wrangles with the federal government in Washington D.C. "I don't know much," he told the audience.


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