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   Microsoft Already Battling Windows 2000 Piracy
Microsoft Stock Falls After Study Questioned Windows 2000
NEW YORK — Microsoft Corp. shares fell in heavy trading Friday, dragging down major stock indices, as a study questioned whether Windows 2000 would interact smoothly with other software.

Also raising investor concerns were comments Thursday night from Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell Computer Corp., that chilled some of the expectations for the release of Windows 2000, Microsoft's latest personal-computer operating system, due to be formally introduced next week.

In afternoon Nasdaq trade, the shares were off 4 at 102, rising off an earlier intraday low of 99-3/4. Microsoft was the most active Nasdaq issue.

Technology consulting firm Gartner Group said in the report one in four corporations moving to Windows 2000 would run into problems with the new system being compatible with existing software. The software upgrade is specifically designed for business customers

Even so, analysts said the report raised no fresh issues.

"In reacting to the Gartner Group study, investors are reacting to a rehash of a story that is a year old," said Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Michael Kwatinetz.' "Are there people out there who don't know what's going on? Of course there are. This kind of news will affect the stock, but in a more temporary way."

Gartner's Michael Gartenberg, author of the report, said the study was "not meant to be a forum to release new and major findings. This is stuff we've been saying for quite some time." Also, analysts said they were more concerned about statements made by Michael Dell during the conference call after his company, the No. 1 direct seller of PCs, released its fourth-quarter earnings report late Thursday.

Dell said the Linux operating system, considered an alternative to Microsoft Windows, was gaining momentum, and that there was no rush of corporate customers upgrading hardware systems for Windows 2000.

"We don't see a massive immediate acceleration due to Windows 2000," said Dell.

Kwatinetz said such an immediate rush to Windows 2000 was not to be expected. He focused on Dell's positive remarks about the alternative Linux operating system, saying these comments could be more significant.

"He (Dell) gives the feeling that there are some other new operating systems that are going to pose a challenge to Microsoft," he said.

Warburg Dillion Read analyst Charles Wolf agreed that positive comments about Linux could steal Microsoft's momentum, especially one week before the new operating system becomes available.

"The Linux comments are obviously a negative," he said. "A lot of the 'dot-com' small companies are jumping on it because it's cheap and works. Let's not say it is the next coming, but it is a negative to Microsoft in that it takes away from its ability to take share in the small-business space."

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