RealTime IT News

Microsoft to Offer Peek at Windows XP

As contentious issues blow through the halls of America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp., the latter tech giant Monday said it will offer beta testers a peek at its much-ballyhooed Windows XP operating system.

The prime area of emphasis for Microsoft is on its Windows Messenger, which is clearly the answer to AOL's own wildly popular real-time instant messaging service, AIM. Though beta testers may get their mitts on the heavily-marketed OS this week, the finished product won't hit the shelves until Oct. 25, just in time for the busy Christmas season.

What Windows XP purports to do, is pull Microsoft's preëxisting communication tools together in one neat package in a time when most companies offer disparate communication technologies. Windows Messenger will integrate many ways for users to participate in text chat, voice and video communication, and data collaboration. Created to accompany Microsoft's sprawling, "bet-the-company" .NET initiative, it is designed to work seamlessly with MSN Messenger, a popular service boasting more than 32 million users.

Like its AIM counterpart, Windows Messenger will notify users when their contacts are online, making it possible for them to chat in real time. Windows Messenger will also enable people in different places to work together and share materials as if they were together.

While instant messaging applications have caught on like wildfire among teens who have a limit as to how long they may tie up the telephone, Windows XP and Windows Messenger, are geared for office users as well. Many corporate environments use IM as a quiet method of communication.

Windows XP is also favorable to standards, as Windows Messenger supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard that creates new methods of communication via the Web.

Fresh off of a presentation of his company's Office XP in New York City last Thursday, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said that with "Windows Messenger, Windows XP will help make the world a more connected place by combining the power of the Internet with the innovation of the PC industry to make a real difference for users."

And therein lies Microsoft's problem with rival AOL. While the software maker's beta test run this week is good news because its shows the company is on schedule to make its time-to-market date, talks with the AOL Time Warner Internet service provider remain on and off.

The tech giants have been haggling over whether or not to include AOL software in the Windows XP operating system and to extend AOL's use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. With Windows Messenger, it is clear that Microsoft would love to chip away at AOL's market share, which were culled from AOL's popular brand and its refusal to let others, particularly Microsoft, connect to its approximately 100 million IM users.

Still, the situation between AOL and Microsoft remains dicey, with neither company daring to get too cozy with the other. A telling example of just how cautious the companies have been came in the form of a candid statement from Microsoft President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer. The charismatic skipper recently told Rolling Stone magazine that, next to open-source movements such as Linux, AOL remains the software giant's greatest threat because what AOL is trying to do in terms of Net services would obviate the need for customers to buy Windows operating systems, Microsoft's bread and butter.

Customers interested in getting a feel for Windows XP can check out a preview program here.