Of all the products named lately that are potentially vulnerable to problems stemming from the Year 2000 bug, you wouldn't generally expect to find premier products from companies like Microsoft. But you will. The Redmond, Wash., software giant recently posted information on its Year 2000 Web site to help customers address potential Year 2000 problems in several of its newest products, some of which were released only a few months ago. Though most of Microsoft's products are fully compliant and will function normally after Dec. 31, 1999, the company's list of noncompliant and "compliant with minor issues" includes more than a few surprises. In a statement posted on the site, Microsoft defines a compliant product as one that will not produce errors processing date data in connection with the year change from Dec. 31, 1999 to Jan. 1, 2000. The company defines "compliant with minor issues" as "a product which meets Microsoft's standard of compliance with some disclosed exceptions that constitute minor date issues." Three products were listed as noncompliant and will not function normally after 1999. They include Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS 5.0 and Office Professional 4.3. Though most of Microsoft's other applications are fine, the company lists at least 21 products under the "compliant with minor issues" category. That list includes NT Server 4.0, NT Workstation 4.0, Windows 95, DOS 6.22, Internet Explorer, most editions of Office 95 and Office 97 as well as Office 98 for Macintosh. Many of the products on the list have surprised a number of Microsoft product users, especially those recently having purchased software. After all, many of the programs on the list programs were released in the past year. In most cases, Y2K issues do not affect functionality of a product, but rather are manifested in some other way. Problems may be as minor as having to enter years in a four-digit format rather than two. A fully compliant program will accept the date "08" and interpret it as 2008, while a noncompliant application might read the date as 1908. In most Microsoft programs, a user can enter 2/21/2008 and not experience problems. Microsoft says that many of the products on the "minor issues" list can be fixed with a free patch or service pack, which the company will post in the months to come. Not all products appear on the list. Microsoft is still conducting tests, and will post problems and fixes as they occur. Merrill Lynch Pressures Firms To Address Y2K Though most companies have more than 18 months to prepare for the millennium computer problem, companies in business with financial management giant Merrill Lynch are already feeling the pinch. The company has announced that it will simply cut off firms failing to prepare for the problem. Based on the results of intensive system readiness testing scheduled to occur this summer, Merrill Lynch will look very closely at 15 individual financial firms. The tests will be run industry wide later in the year, and will continue well into 1999. Companies that do not appear to be actively preparing for the Y2K issue will be summarily dumped. The tests are part of a $6 billion international program tasked with addressing the problem. Merrill Lynch alone, with a task force of more than 600 workers, is dedicating $275 million to ensure that it and any firms it does business with are well prepared.