REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 4, 1999 — While many experts still disagree on just how seriously the so-called
will bite, everyone from the Gartner Group to the U.S. Small Business Administration agrees on the merits of early preparation to head off potential computer problems that could occur as the Year 2000 begins. President Clinton recently added his voice to the readiness effort as well, with a clear call to action.
“In the remaining days of 1999, I hope that the business community redoubles its efforts at remediation,”
“Preventing problems before they start, and developing contingency plans when necessary, are still the best solutions to the Y2K problem.”
In anticipation of its customers’ needs, Microsoft Corp. has issued its own call to action for Y2K preparedness. With just five months to go until Jan. 1, 2000, the company has launched a massive effort to remind its customers that “sooner is better than later” in preparing to meet the challenges of Y2K. Concerned that many PC users won’t take action until December 1999 — potentially overloading the computer industry’s support facilities — Microsoft has embarked on a proactive plan to contact an estimated 60 million customers and raise awareness about Year 2000 issues.
“We’re trying to embrace as many customers as we can and help them, first and foremost, understand how the Y2K challenge could affect their PCs,”
explains Don Jones, director of Year 2000 Readiness at Microsoft.
“We also want to inspire them to take action now, in hopes of making Year 2000 a non-event for people who use Microsoft software, as it relates to their PCs.”
Two schools of thought continue to dominate the debate over Y2K implications. At one extreme are alarmists who forecast problems of epic proportions; at the other extreme are those who predict that nothing will happen. Microsoft believes the issue calls for a prudent approach.
“The truth is, getting ready for Y2K is simply a process of preparing your hardware, your software and your data,”
“And we want customers to begin that process now.”
E-mail, Direct Mail Campaign Believed to be Largest in History
Microsoft is contacting 60 million customers via email and direct mail through July and August, urging them to take action early on Y2K issues. The effort is believed to be the largest consumer campaign in history, except for mailings sent out by the government. The size of the mailing reflects Microsoft’s broad customer base, encompassing business and home users as well as developers who write software using Microsoft development tools.
To reach a large volume of users quickly and effectively, Microsoft is conducting its communication campaign using email and standard mail. The company sent an initial notice via email in July to approximately 1 million customers in the United States. Another 21 million email messages were scheduled for worldwide delivery in subsequent weeks. Microsoft will begin sending a similar message via direct mail in August, when U.S. customers will begin receiving Microsoft’s Y2K postcards. Postcard mailings will continue through October, culminating in total email and direct mail distribution to 60 million customers worldwide.
Recognizing that its Year 2000 initiative is one of the most important customer-focused support programs in company history, Microsoft gave careful consideration to the campaign’s timing and scope. Consumer focus group research and customer feedback indicated that the typical customer would not begin actively seeking remedies for potential Y2K problems until after the summer of 1999. Armed with that knowledge, Microsoft chose the months of July and August as the best time to broadly inform and educate customers on Year 2000 issues.
The effort urges PC users to address their Y2K concerns in a timely fashion by taking advantage of the preparedness resources available on the Microsoft Y2K Web site ( http://www.microsoft.com/y2k/ ). The site’s home page offers visitors two paths to factual Y2K information and prescriptive advice. The TechNet Y2K portal is designed with the detail and technical depth necessary to satisfy IT professionals, while the consumer-side portal encapsulates information into easy, step-by-step action items for home PC users. The consumer pages also can be used by businesses to explain the scope of Y2K challenges to PC users within their companies.
Microsoft’s consumer notification campaign is just one ingredient of a broad-based outreach program designed to help customers deal with Y2K issues. Besides the large-scale mailing, other components of the campaign include broad-based distribution of Microsoft’s Year 2000 Resource CD, a toll-free support line at (888) MSFT-Y2K (673-8925), and free-of-charge support for any Y2K-related issues.
According to Don Jones, these combined efforts dovetail with Microsoft’s overall emphasis on taking care of its customers.
“This customer outreach program demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to open disclosure, and that means telling customers exactly what Y2K issues they might encounter with our products,”
“Further, it demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to customer satisfaction. We’ve made it exceptionally easy to install software updates, and we’ve given users multiple means to obtain those software updates, from the Y2K Resource CD, to the toll-free number, to the dedicated Web site. Most important, this effort signifies that Microsoft has stepped up to its role as an industry leader by urging customers to turn their attention to Y2K sooner as opposed to later.”
Y2K Readiness Advice Covers Hardware, Software, Data
Acknowledging the rapid approach of the new millennium, Microsoft’s efforts encourage PC users to educate themselves on the potential effects that Y2K could have on their hardware, their software and their data. All three elements should be addressed soon to make sure PCs are ready for the new century in plenty of time.
For help with hardware issues, consumers should check with the manufacturer of the PC they purchased. Typically, PC manufacturers post Y2K compliance information on their respective Web sites. On the software side, consumers should become informed about which of their applications make calculations using dates. They should then contact the appropriate software manufacturer (whether Microsoft or another vendor) and install any Y2K software updates available. Resolving data issues is equally important in averting Y2K problems. In instances where a consumer has used two digits to represent dates, the dates need to be changed to four-digit. For example, instead of writing July 29, 1999, as 7/29/99, the date should be written as 7/29/1999. This change will enable PCs to recognize dates in correct numerical sequence.