Computer Execs Tout a ‘Liberating’ Windows XP

By Erin Joyce

NEW YORK – “Personalization” of computers, a sturdy platform to integrate digital media applications and the business promise of XML using Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.

For the chief executives of the nation’s biggest computer and technology makers, and electronic retailing companies, these are just some of the selling points of Microsoft’s new Windows XP operating system.

It is also a platform they hope will revive computer sales and drive the adoption of all kinds of digital media devices.

As the official launch of the Windows XP dawned in New York Thursday, chief executives of device makers Sony and Toshiba, chip maker Intel Corp., manufacturers Compaq, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and Gateway, and retailer Staples joined Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates at a roundtable to discuss the industry.

Naturally, with all of their fortunes tied to how well XP is received in the marketplace, they were also there to tout the innovations of the operating system. Chief among those advances, they said, was how well XP integrates digital photo images, music and video.

“I think we can expect an increase in sales” this quarter now that the new operating system is officially in the marketplace, said Michael Dell of Dell Computer Corp.

Dell said he thought that a federal stimulus package would help consumers and businesses open their wallets.

“I think there have been a lot of buyers that have been waiting for Windows XP to come out” before they buy a new PC, said Dell, who expects fourth quarter sales to be “active” during the holiday season.

Carly Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive, also said major computer makers (such as HP) need to view the potential of Windows XP beyond how it can affect sales of PC units.

“It’s about driving a whole set of applications and a whole set of personal devices associated with digital imaging,” she said, echoing a view by many analysts who believe digital photo imaging will outstrip the use of conventional photography within three years.

In the process of discussing XP, they indirectly and directly referenced declining sales in personal computers, as well as a sluggish economy and terrorist attacks that have impacted consumers’ willingness to spend.

But overall, they were there to make their case of how Windows XP may eventually prove compelling to businesses and consumers.

Tom Stemberg, chief executive of Staples, said before he fired up the XP platform and applications, he had always had to tap the digital imaging skills of his son.

“I would take the pictures but couldn’t manipulate them,” said Stemberg. “It’s been liberating” to work with images with the intuitive nature of the XP platform, he said.

Michael Capellas of Compaq chimed in on the digital media applications, calling music the killer app on the Web and touting his ability to download music from his computer to a portable device and take it with him jogging.

Ted Waitt, CEO of computer manufacturer Gateway, in making his pitch for a (much-needed) boost in XP-inspired computer sales, also indirectly approached the “walled garden” criticism of the new platform.

Critics say XP aggressively influences the users’ experience by driving them to Microsoft’s own services, products and content.

“I think at the end of the day, technology is about saving time, money and energy,” Waitt said.

“In tough economic times people start questioning its purpose. One of the things I like about XP is that it’s a great platform for better integration of hardware, applications and services. That’s what it’s about, the combination.”

In a sense, that improved integration on a platform that evolved from the business-oriented NT operating system, helps what Fiorina called the “personalization of the computer” away from just the personal computer.

While clearly relishing his moment with the much ballyhooed launch, Gates looked to the future with comments about the use of XML (Extensible Markup Language) in the XP platform.

The tags could be a catalyst for widespread adoption of Web services.

“You can use any computer language to build these Web services” using XP, Gates said.

“You don’t have to throw out your existing applications. You can actually put XML layers on top of those,” Gates said.

“And it’s through the industry coming together around XML that we’re able to present a kind of interoperability, both inside companies and across company boundaries” that for people, commerce and government hasn’t been possible before.

“Every computer language can participate in this. Using XML, you can pick the computer language that makes sense for that application.”

The discussion at the Marriott Marquis Hotel Theatre was a warm-up event before Gates’ keynote address, a two-hour presentation of Windows XP that included appearances by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Craig Barrett of Intel Corp., and talk show host Regis Philbin.

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