Microsoft: Windows XP on track

Microsoft Corp.’s top executive in charge of its operating system said Friday the company is on track to release its controversial Windows XP operating system by the Oct. 25 deadline, and is not preparing a contingency plan to fend off government and industry attacks.

“We’re not ignoring it. We consider it to be very serious,” said Jim Allchin, group vice-president for Windows at Microsoft, of this week’s dousing criticism from the U.S. Congress, privacy groups and competitors. “The product that I see written about is not the product that I’m building.”

With 90 days left until the release of what the company considers its most advanced operating system, Allchin stressed in a conference call Friday that the product is open to partners, competitive software products and industry standards.

“Frankly, the industry needs this product,” he said. “We are keeping very focused on delivering for the 25.”

The company will ship Release Candidate 2 of the operating system to manufacturers Saturday, Allchin said. Following comments and feedback from the more than 500,000 beta testers of early versions of the product, Microsoft has removed the Smart Tags feature from the operating system and from the Internet Explorer browser that ships with the OS. The controversial feature identifies keywords in user documents and suggests links to related Web sites. Microsoft has been criticized because Microsoft or its partners operate many of the suggested Web sites.

Release Candidate 2 will ship, however, with a clean desktop – the screen users see when they first boot up a PC – as the company has said earlier. Unlike previous versions of Windows, icons and folders will not appear on the desktop. But consumers who receive Windows XP preinstalled on a PC from manufacturers, will likely see icons from Internet service providers and other software makers. AOL Time Warner Inc., for instance, is dealing with PC makers to have its Internet access software preinstalled on computers from Compaq Computer Corp. [See ” Compaq to give AOL exclusive spot on Windows XP PCs,” July 30.]

With 90 days until the launch of Windows XP, Allchin said the company is working fervently to ensure a smooth release. He said engineers “are in fact sleeping in their offices to get this product finished.”

Microsoft also plans to spend about US$200 million marketing the operating system globally during the first four months the product is on the market.

“We expect to reach 85 per cent of the target audience with that marketing campaign,” Allchin said.

Microsoft, in Mississauga, Ont., can be reached at