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
, 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.

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