With Fanfare, Microsoft Unleashes XP

“Bill. You don’t want to do that, do you Bill?”

That was MS-DOS pleading as Microsoft Founder and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates stood poised to press return after typing “exit” on the MS-DOS command line during the launch of the Windows XP operating system at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City Thursday.

Disregarding MS-DOS’ plea, Gates hit that return key.

“This is the end of an era,” Gates told the crowd gathered in the Marquis Theater for the event. “It’s the end of the MS-DOS era. It’s the end of the Windows 95 era. It’s the end of too many PC crashes. It’s the end of the static Web experience. I also hope people will say it’s the end of the narrowband era.”

With that, Gates ushered in what he, Microsoft, and its many partners in the technology industry hope will become the era of Windows XP, the operating system that brings all of Microsoft’s operating systems together on one code base.

Both the consumer version of Windows XP (Home Edition) and Windows XP Professional Edition are built on the same kernel, which Jim Allchin, vice president of the Windows Group at Microsoft, said is 20 percent more reliable than Windows 2000 and already supports more than 12,000 devices.

“With Windows XP on today’s computers, customers will experience a much more enhanced yet simplified computing experience,” Allchin said. “Customers can do things they’ve never done before with a PC; likewise, business users can work smarter and faster with more productive tools to meet the demands of any size company.”

For businesses, Windows XP Professional includes all the features of the Home Edition, as well as remote access, enhanced security features, manageability and multilingual features, and reliability.

Microsoft said Thursday that 150,000 desktops equipped with Windows XP Professional have already been deployed, and more than 1 million are committed to be deployed by enterprise customers.

Where the Professional Edition focuses on reliability and security, Home Edition includes extensive digital photography, digital music, digital video, home networking and communications features.

The company has also focused on mobility for both editions, including plug and play features for connecting to wireless networks. The operating system also utilizes the 802.1x wireless security standard.

“We can improve the way people do their work and the way people entertain themselves at home,” Gates said.

The operating system lays the ground work for Microsoft’s hopes for its .NET Web services initiative, but it also represents an important milestone for Microsoft’s many technology partners.

“The whole PC industry has come together behind this launch,” Gates said. And noting that application developers and device manufacturers are also supported by the release, he added, “It’s really through the new things that are built on top of Windows that it shows off its full potential.”

Microsoft spared no expense to make this launch, which Gates called the most important release since Windows 95, a memorable event. It kicked things off by bringing in New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who thanked Gates and Microsoft for holding the event in the city.

“I want to thank Bill very much for doing this launch here in New York City,” Giuliani said. “It shows a tremendous amount of confidence in the City of New York.”

But Giuliani was not the only famous face to join Microsoft in its celebration. The company also brought in Regis Philbin, of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” fame, to play a few rounds of that game — with questions focusing on the new operating system — with Gates himself.

While Gates was shooting for the million dollar prize, Philbin quipped, “Are you sure this is worth your time?”

The company also trotted out former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett, and Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz (the coffee giant is deploying wireless networks in its shops based on Windows XP). The musician Sting was brought in to play a concert at Bryant Park to celebrate the launch.

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