Date set to start Windows shopping

Remember when “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones made you think of things other than Windows 95’s start button? Well, cherish your musical memories surrounding Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” because the marketing blitz for the October 25 release of Microsoft’s Windows XP is geared up to be the biggest Windows marketing event in Microsoft history.

According to Jim Allchin, group vice-president of the Platforms Group at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash., Windows XP is something to get hyped up about.

“We expect this to be an amazing launch,” Allchin predicted. “We raised the bar in quality with Windows 2000. With Windows XP, I can assure you that we’ve raised the bar again. We have spent a great deal of time focusing on any of the feedback that we got from Windows 2000 and we have improved the system from a reliability, performance and security perspective.”

Tony Iams, a Port Chester, N.Y-based. analyst with D.H. Brown Associates Inc., agrees that Windows XP will be an attractive alternative for present users of Windows 95 and 98 because of this promised reliability.

“All other operating systems that Microsoft has positioned for consumers over the last few years have been based on the same 16-bit DOS kernel that they’ve always had. For the first time, almost since DOS came out 20 years ago, they’re replacing that with the NT kernel,” Iams explained. “Once you move to an NT kernel, you can expect a quantum leap in terms of reliability.

“Uptime and stability have been the biggest hurdles in the past for Windows users. Everyone knows that blue screen feeling,” Iams continued. “A lot of those problems will potentially go away with this kernel. This is a completely new domain in terms of uptime.”

Aside from the improved reliability, performance and security with the NT kernel, Microsoft is heavily promoting XP’s new user experience.

“There’s a whole new graphical user interface that’s a lot fresher and a lot nicer,” Erik Moll, the Mississauga, Ont.-based Windows marketing manager for Microsoft Canada, explained. “The navigation is a lot easier to do. Typically, your current environment is very data and application oriented, however, this environment is going to be task and object oriented.”

Microsoft expects that features like this will be enough for the millions of Windows users worldwide to want to install XP onto their desktops. According to Allchin, “X marks the spot this Christmas.”

“The financial upside for Microsoft is formidable,” Iams projected. “They are going after a staggeringly large base of users, and if they succeed in making people upgrade this is going to be a huge benefit for them. On the other hand, people don’t really like migrating all that much, so what it really comes down to is how well they sell this concept of superior reliability,” he said.

“They (Microsoft) have got to be careful, because on the one hand they won’t want to admit that their old product was lousy,” Iams suggested, “but at the same time, they are delivering technology here that will potentially really improve that. They need to emphasize how much better the reliability is here without making the old product look too bad.”

Michael Silver, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc. advises IT professionals to “take the launch with a grain of salt. The launch is geared towards hyping Windows XP to consumers and organizations that haven’t started with Windows 2000 yet. Organizations that have started with 2000 are on the right path,” he said.

“Remember, this is not a totally new release of the OS,” Silver continued. “This is an incremental release of Windows 2000. When I talk to enterprises and they tell me that they’re planning on waiting for a service pack before deploying Windows XP, I say basically this is a service pack to Windows 2000. It adds some new features, but is like what Windows 98 was to Windows 95. It’s basically the same underpinnings with some reliability and some bug fixes and feature enhancements, but is not a radically different OS than Windows 2000.”

If you’d like to try a preview copy of Windows XP, go to