Microsoft Corp.'s renaming of what had been known as Windows NT 5.0 as Windows 2000 sets the stage for the company to put under one roof all its upcoming family of consumer and business systems.
Next year, Microsoft will launch Windows 2000 Professional, displacing Windows 95/Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 in the business market. Three related Windows 2000 server software products also will be launched next year.
CONSUMER VERSION IN FUTURE
Although Microsoft will continue to sell Windows 98, it plans at some point to develop a consumer version of Windows 2000.
While Microsoft traditionally has handled each naming project piecemeal, the Windows 2000 name is meant to drive branding for years to come, said Rob Schoeben, director of integrated marketing communications for the Personal and Business Systems Division.
Exactly how this will play out is to be determined. Microsoft hasn't decided whether to keep the milestone 2000 as a name for future editions or to apply a model-year approach similar to what it did with products such as Windows 95 and Office 97.
In the future, said Brad Chase, VP-Windows marketing and developer relations, it's possible "we'll have something like Windows 2006 for consumers and we'll have something like Windows 2006 Professional" for business.
Microsoft conceived the Windows 2000 name on its own, although Mr. Schoeben said Landor Associates, Seattle, Microsoft's packaging agency, is helping implement the name.
COMPLEMENTS OFFICE 2000
The name complements Office 2000, the successor to the Office 97 application suite; Microsoft will introduce Office 2000 next year.
Windows 2000 will mark Microsoft's most ambitious effort yet to carry an integrated look across the product's user interface, advertising, packaging, Web site and point-of-purchase materials, Mr. Schoeben said.
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., handles traditional and Web advertising for Windows. Reflecting the business target, Mr. Schoeben said, the heavy Windows 2000 launch campaign next year probably will be print and Web, with TV not expected to be part of the plan.
Windows 2000, on its face a simple name, in fact resolves a lot of conflicting issues surrounding Microsoft's branding and product life cycles. Microsoft wants business to move to Windows NT, a product on the market since 1993. But it doesn't want people to think they're switching from "Windows" (shorthand for Windows 95 or Windows 98) to "NT" (shorthand for Windows NT).
At the same time, Microsoft saw an opportunity to position the next version of NT as part of the solution for customers' concerns over Year 2000 computer problems.
Finally, Microsoft wanted a name that will differentiate the future consumer operating system, built off NT, from Windows 98, the last of the line built off MS-DOS.
Windows 2000 lets the powerful NT take the stage as centerpiece of the Windows family. The name shifts the focus from NT back to Windows.
Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.