Microsoft Asks ‘Are You XPerienced?’

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 for that matter, will be hard pressed to continually whet consumers’ app

etites.

Will the Past Come Back to Haunt Microsoft?

Ed Bott, a long-time journalist and resident Windows expert at About.com, said he has had the privilege of attending several detailed XP briefings recently.

Bott, who said the public can expect to see a home desktop version as well as a professional desktop version, told InternetNews.com Tuesday that users should be pleased with the new product.

“The day-to-day interface is different,” Bott said. “There are very nice changes in the visuals.”

Bott also agreed that the briefing is finally some good news for the software giant.

“This is a really good product,” Bott affirmed. “The last three versions have been ho-hum. And it should be different from last year’s Windows 2000 release, which suffered from horrible timing because of Y2K. My feeling is consumers will like this and will really take advantage of it.”

A few weeks after scrambling to fix domain name server problems that caused system-wide shutdowns (at one time for as long as 23 hours), Microsoft could benefit from the good press showing regardless of smirking skeptics. Those system problems, which crippled multiple Microsoft sites, came at a terribly inconvenient time for the company, which was trying to wow the public with the promise for a $200 million ad campaign for its .NET software service strategy.

The timing of the problems, which took a few days to straighten out, has led some analysts to declare .NET all but dead.

“It’s destroyed,” Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle said when the glitches were reported. “While they’re running a big campaign talking about the reliability of MS products is not the time to have major outages at the site, particularly for sites as visible as Microsoft. (The outages) pretty much destroyed their advertising campaign, and any value they might have achieved from that campaign is pretty much gone.

But what, people may ask, does .NET have to do with Windows XP? According to Microsoft themselves, XP will be at the center of the .NET experience, “empowering people to move beyond disconnected applications, services and devices to complete computing experiences that redefine the relationship between people, software and the Internet.”

How Microsoft fares with both platforms will be something to watch over the next few months.

*seattle.internet.com’s Mike Chait contributed quotes to this story.

*Clint Boulton is Associate Editor, Product News, for Internetnews.com, a property of Internet.com.

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