Xerox warns workers against unauthorized software use

Xerox Corp. last week warned its employees not to install unauthorized software on their computers, after incompatibilities between unspecified hardware and the beta-test version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system caused network problems at some of its California facilities.

Kara Choquette, a spokeswoman at the Stamford, Conn.-based maker of office equipment, said apparent conflicts between the hardware and the Windows XP beta code resulted in an “isolated network outage.” Some employees in violation of a Xerox corporate policy that prohibits unauthorized software use had installed the beta software.

The problem that led to the outage “is not an issue with Microsoft software, but with equipment from a third-party vendor,” Choquette said. She declined to identify the hardware vendor, but said it’s working to solve the problem.

Although it absolved the Windows XP beta from blame, Xerox last Wednesday reminded workers in an internal daily newsletter that they’re not permitted to install unauthorized software programs on its systems. Such policies are “pretty common with any [company] around the world,” Choquette said.

Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said unauthorized software and hardware installations by end users cause compatibility issues and other problems for IT departments on a regular basis. “It can happen with anything,” he said.

Many users install beta-test software releases on their PCs despite company policies prohibiting such activities, “for no other reason than they want to have the latest thing,” Kusnetzky said. But, he added, the resulting problems can be severe enough to result in data losses due to technical problems such as incompatibility between software and hardware drivers.

A Microsoft spokesman also said Windows XP wasn’t to blame for the network outage experienced at Xerox. Microsoft is working with Xerox and the hardware vendor “to determine exactly what the problem is and [to] see what we can do to fix it, because it was the hardware and not XP,” he said.

Microsoft detailed its plans for Windows XP and began beta-testing the software two months ago. The incident at Xerox “really … is what the beta process is all about,” the Microsoft spokesman said. “This [kind of problem] crops up, and so we go fix it.”

Reporter Carol Sliwa also contributed to this story.