The hardest sell

Last week saw the launch of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows XP. The product made it out on time, and, so far, with few complaints about the code itself. But, being Microsoft, Windows XP has not arrived without its fair share of controversy.

  • E-Mail
By  Mark Sutton Published  October 27, 2001

Last week saw the launch of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows XP. The product made it out on time, and, so far, with few complaints about the code itself. But, being Microsoft, Windows XP has not arrived without its fair share of controversy.

This time around, Microsoft’s behaviour pre-launch has caused plenty of uproar. With some exceptionally harsh deadlines to upgrade to XP or else, Microsoft managed to upset half the market. Redmond has since seen the error of its ways, but there is only a brief reprieve from the scheme, not a way out.

The fact that Microsoft decided to cut the market some slack could have been down to the need to placate the US Justice Department. Alternatively, Bill Gates might be trying to avoid upsetting the market because he really is going to need to sell Windows XP. The big question isn’t ‘is it any good?’ but rather ‘will anyone buy it?’

After pushing out Windows 2000, complete with 80,000 bugs, it looks like a fair amount of work has gone into XP. Stability, reliability, security are among the buzzwords being used about the product, although the statement from one regional pilot that it is “simply the best Windows operating system ever built” seemed to be stating the obvious—I mean, it should be the best Windows ever—they have had long enough to get it right, after all.

Windows XP’s problem is that it is seen as being a consumer upgrade. The vast majority of the new functions are concerned with support for multimedia, .NET etc. The improvements to the OS are not enough that businesses really have a pressing reason to invest. Cue Bill Gates, at the New York launch, giving a roving demo of how a wireless network powered by XP in a downtown Starbucks can be used to sell more coffee—’but it is an OS for business!’

There are functions that offer real potential—remote assistance—to manage users over a network should save the IT shop lots of trouble dealing with users. The trouble is that there is some suggestion that it is so good it is replacing some low-level solutions providers (see page 46...).

But XP’s real problem is that regardless of whether it is just an overdone service pack, or a revolution on the desktop, companies just don’t want to spend money at the moment. The Middle East may be less troubled by the economic downturn, but there are still budgets to consider.

Aside from the cost of the new licensing scheme, which has been highly criticised by many, there is the question of hardware. XP requires a 300Mhz processor, 128MB RAM and 1.5GB disk space. They are not be the best specs in the world, but they aren’t that bad either. But customers don’t want to buy a new OS and then have to buy new hardware just to run it.

To be honest, I picked up some extra RAM at Shopper, just to be sure I could run XP. Because whether Microsoft tries to beg, bully or bribe us into using XP, there there is one thing bothering me. We are all going to end up using it anyway.

Yes, good, bad, terrible, whatever, nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft—the corporate market is safe. Linux, bless it, is still not an option unless you are a rocket scientist (just ask my technically-adept colleague who melted down his laptop after making some Linux mods...), and for office productivity, the competition isn’t really competing. XP could be the OS that time forgot; bad timing and an upgrade too far, and maybe it will be superseded by another OS. But I suspect once the gloom lifts and everyone is ready to spend again, it is still going to be Microsoft’s Windows we all go out and buy.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code