RealTime IT News

Road Runner: We Don't Do Windows XP

Windows XP, the highly anticipated and over-hyped new operating system (OS) by Microsoft Corp. released Wednesday, is already off to a bad start with one member of the cable Internet industry.

Road Runner, the second-largest cable Internet service provider (ISP) in the nation with more than 1.4 million subscribers, does not support the controversial new operating system (OS) for its customers and will not support its use on the cable network.

A customer service technician at Road Runner, who asked not to be identified, said it could take up to a year for everyone to get trained on the new OS.

"We're not able to support Windows XP technical support-wise -- people can still put it on their computer, but we won't be able to help them out," the technician said. "I expect that all the technicians will be trained in (XP) soon."

The technician did add that the timeframe "soon" could mean almost a year in length.

It seems very convenient that a cable ISP owned primarily by AOL Time Warner, the largest ISP in the world and a direct competitor with the Microsoft Corp. (the second-largest) for dial up and broadband Internet users worldwide, does not support the software of the most popular OS ever assembled.

Microsoft and AOL have been arch-rivals for years now, as the two evolved into the world's two marquee Internet access and content providers. They have fought for and over everything from instant messaging to Internet browsers.

According to Mike Luftman, AOL/TW spokesperson, Road Runner support of Windows XP will take nowhere near as long as one year to put in place.

"Road Runner (techs) will be supporting Windows XP as soon as they receive the final version of it and the support documents and (customer support technicians) go through the training," Luftman said. "They do what any other ISP would do in this case because people have to be trained and we have to test (XP) when we receive the material from Microsoft. Training will take a few weeks."

It's unknown how many Road Runner technicians will need to be trained.

Cox Communications, the fifth-largest cable ISP in the nation, has already come forward with its support of the new Windows platform at its customer support facilities.

Susan Leepson, Cox spokesperson, said that the majority of Cox's Internet service is part of exclusivity contracts with Excite@Home, although they serve some customers through Road Runner.

In the three markets served by Road Runner, Windows XP support is not available, she said, but Cox@Home in the remaining 19 markets support the new OS.

"We have our exclusive contracts with Cox@Home, but those markets that we acquired that already had a contract in place with Road Runner, and we honored that existing contract," she said.

@Home, a joint venture between Cox, Comcast and AT&T is the largest cable ISP in the nation with more than 3.3 million subscribers, although it is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the technician, Road Runner also doesn't support fringe OS platforms like Unix and Linux, which are popular among computer adepts but not with the mainstream graphical user interface (GUI) crowd.

But unlike other OS platforms, Windows is used by more than 90 percent of the desktop PCs in the world. Love 'em or hate 'em, Microsoft's products are used by everyone, a fact that many blue chip tech firms are well aware.

Despite much of the controversy surrounding Windows XP, Microsoft executives have managed to rally the support of some of the world's premier high-tech companies like computer manufacturer Dell, chipmaker AMD and networking component maker 3Com.

Windows XP has been in the center of a critical hurricane over many of its new features. One of them is a installation wizard that requires new XP installs to be registered with the Redmond, WA-based database before being activated.

Another is the so-called "raw sockets" implementation which Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research Group, calls "another seriously dumb idea in the works from Microsoft."

Malicious hackers, when remote-controlling a PC (using zombie software), could potentially hide behind XP's raw sockets since it provides "spoof" IP addresses for anyone trying to hide from security experts tracking down the origination of the distributed denial-of-service attack.

Another possible reason for Road Runner's hesitation over the new software is Windows new OS track record, which has included thousands of "bugs" never caught and removed from its alpha and beta test runs. These errors caused a wide variety of system failures, from annoying "ghost pointer" glitches to the "blue screen of death," which necessitated a reboot.