Windows 2001 is coming. On Halloween, Microsoft announced it was distributing the first beta release for the successor to Windows 2000. The final version should arrive on store shelves sometime in the second half of 2001.

The BIG question
In all likelihood, the first question certified Microsoft professionals are asking themselves is, “What does this mean for my Windows 2000 certification?” The answer is, “Not much.”
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According to Microsoft Professional Magazine, Microsoft’s certification and skills assessment marketing manager Eckhart Boehme discussed the issue at September’s TechMentor conference. While Boehme said the follow-up release to Windows 2000 will be a “major product enhancement,” certified Windows 2000 MCPs and MCSEs will not be required to upgrade their skills again for the Windows 2001, or Whistler, platform.

MCSDs, however, won’t be so lucky. A Microsoft exam development program manager said revisions to the MCSD program are expected within a year.

A single code base
If all goes according to plan, Whistler will be the first operating system Redmond releases in which both the consumer and professional versions use the NT kernel. DOS will truly be gone.

Will it be 64-bit?
Whistler is available in two versions. There’s a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version. The 64-bit iteration will be promoted as a powerful, scalable platform that can rival UNIX servers in their ability to support huge databases and numerous simultaneous online transactions.

User interface updates
The new beta includes many features aimed at simplifying consumer use and reducing help desk calls. For instance, if a user’s keyboard has the [Caps Lock] key on when the user begins typing in a password, the security dialog box will alert the user that he or she is typing in all capital letters. Apparently, many support calls are generated because passwords on the Windows 2000 platform are case-sensitive.

Control Panel gets a makeover, too, in the enhanced OS. The applets included in Control Panel were simplified in the prebeta release. Instead of having a dozen or more categories, Whistler focuses on just a half-dozen.

While the full functionality of the other applets is included, Redmond’s engineers seem to be taking a page out of the Win2K playbook: Remove from view those items users aren’t likely to use often. They’re still there, of course; you’ll just have to dig a little deeper. The thought process is that users can’t mess up what they don’t see.

Say goodbye to DLL hell
Long-labeled “DLL Hell” by systems administrators, Windows’ insistence on using a single version of a dynamic link library file is going away. Instead of having to worry about whether the new DLL that a new application must have will create compatibility problems with an older application requiring the same DLL, Whistler makes automatic copies of the DLLs it replaces.

Whistler quick glance
Pros Cons
Reliable Application compatibility
Powerful Hardware compatibility
Single development platform Increased hardware requirements
While Whistler provides enhanced reliability, increased power, and a single platform for developers to focus on when coding applications, software and hardware compatibilities could be issues, along with a demand for faster processors and more RAM.

Simultaneous user sessions
Another feature you’ll find in Whistler is its ability to support multiple user sessions at the same time. While this will prove popular for the consumers and small offices, it also has application in the enterprise.

Here’s how it works. Say you’ve got two employees who share the same machine. If employee A’s shift ends at 3:00 P.M., but employee A is downloading a report at 2:50 P.M. that will take until 3:10 P.M. to complete, there’s no problem. Employee A can log out and his or her session will continue running in the background. Meanwhile, employee B can log in at 3:00 P.M. and begin working.

Bigger, better, faster, more
As usual, there’s a price to pay for the many new features Whistler introduces. Network administrators will face software and compatibility issues first. Once they get applications and machines running the new OS, they’re likely to find many of their older machines don’t possess sufficient hardware to run Windows 2001 (or whatever the marketing team determines the new release’s final name to be).

The hardware requirements for Whistler’s final version are likely to be a 300-MHz chip for desktops and servers and 233-MHz powered portables. Whistler systems will probably run on 64-MB RAM, but my best guess is that you’ll want 128 MB, if not twice that or more, depending upon your needs.

Redmond’s engineers have taken a swing at helping to eliminate at least some of these problems. You’ll probably be happy to hear Whistler includes an application compatibility environment. Its purpose is to emulate the Windows 98 and Windows NT platforms. This is particularly critical for Win98 users and administrators, as support for the DOS code will be left to fade away.

However, there will be no support for Windows 95. In fact, you won’t be able to upgrade Windows 95 systems. If you’re administering many Windows 95 machines, and you’re planning on upgrading later to Windows 2000 and its succeeding OSs, you should know that now so you can plan accordingly.
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