RealTime IT News

Microsoft Asks 'Are You XPerienced?'

Sounding Off at the Experience Music Project (EMP)

For Microsoft Corp. and its now officially-named Windows XP operating system, it was all about meeting the press.

One week after throwing out the codename Whistler in favor of its more techie-flavored moniker, Gates and company met to show off the new OS to reporters and analysts at the Experience Music Project (EMP) interactive music museum in Seattle, Wash.

Although reports from the EMP indicate Gates and Jim Allchin, vice president of the platforms division group, did not show off much of Windows XP to the press, they promised the crowd of around 200 that XP would indeed be the most revolutionary Windows release since '95.

And, while some analysts speculated that the second beta version of XP could be released today, there was no such luck; likely, it will launch in the second quarter of 2001.

A confident Gates wound up his speech by charting what he holds dear as what he believes Windows has imparted to the world since its creation.

"Windows is not just a key product for Microsoft, it's not just the most successful product of all time," Gates said. "It is also the tool that hundreds of millions of people use everyday to get their work done. These users are passionate about Windows as a tool. They're constantly giving us their feedback about what they like and what they don't like."

As for XP, Gates noted: "When we started the Windows XP product, which was code-named Whistler, we had a vision. The vision was to take the experiences people have today and make them better, and it's fair to say that there are things that Windows users can get frustrated about."

When it was time to answer questions, some reporters questioned whether or not XP, which looks to move Windows 95, 98 and ME users over to the Windows NT/2000 kernel, is too dumbed down.

Gates disagreed, saying savvy users, too, would appreciate the new OS' improved interface and features.

"We're trying to make computing much more accessible to a lot more people without making it dumbed-down for the experts, so we think we've gotten a great mix here," Gates said. "Windows XP is for all Windows users. You as an expert will want to upgrade to this thing the day it comes out."

Still, the software guru admitted some people will opt to upgrade as soon as it hits the market and others will not.

Potential Market Impact

In addition to the much-ballyhooed Windows XP, the public has Office XP (slated for June 2001) to look forward to, although that wasn't shown off at EMP. While the new Office version is not expected to make much headway with consumers, indications are that Windows XP (due by the end of the summer) will tell a different tale.

In fact, consensus reports seem to indicate the new OS could rejuvenate a flagging PC market that has made the Street and some analysts bearish.

Goldman Sachs analysts Rick G. Sherlund and Nils Tristan Tuesday morning said XP could help stimulate demand for software and PC upgrades late this calendar year and next year, offering greater stability for consumer PC's.

A new skin, replete with Windows Clear Type fonts and a redesigned graphical user interface was also revealed at the briefing. Speech recognition is said to be in the mix as well, but XP could really make its mark with its digital photography, video and audio capabilities.

The company vowed that scanning pictures, compiling digital music collections and playing DVDs on PC monitors will be made much faster and exciting through Windows XP.

Both Tristan and Sherlund of GS said it was possible the second beta version of XP may be released as well. Though this didn't happen, HMicrosoft second beta versions of software are historically superior to the first, which many testers find to be loaded with bugs.

Still, the PC market is a maturing one, and Microsoft, and any software firm