Firms resist XP distractions

The danger of security breaches and distracting features mean IT managers are cautious about adopting XP.

The launch of the Windows XP operating system this Thursday could position Microsoft as a provider of a wide range of services, applications and content that consumers might want on their home PCs. But IT managers told IT Week that XP's features were likely to distract users from business tasks, and deployment could lead to a drop in productivity.

XP's new features include enhanced instant messaging, video conferencing and online photo processing. It also links into Microsoft's .Net software-as-a-service infrastructure, which will connect applications and enable users to access them from multiple devices.

However, the instant messaging and video conferencing features will not work with common firewall configurations.

Microsoft and analysts agreed that XP is unlikely to be used by most businesses. Microsoft said business users of Windows 9x should evaluate XP Professional, which also ships on October 25th, but said it is not a replacement for Windows 2000. XP Professional offers consumer-oriented features.

When contacted by IT Week, an IT manager at an electronic components supplier said his firm would avoid Windows XP for the moment. "Some of its key features, such as Passport single sign-on authentication, photo processing and enhanced instant messaging, are not seen by myself and my directors as business productivity-enhancing tools­-probably just the opposite," he said. He added that firms would have to be careful if they used Passport to store business data, given the number of recent security breaches of Microsoft software.

His company is also unlikely to use the .Net platform for online services. "We have been trying to move away from a Microsoft-centric approach to more open models of software integration," he said. Security, reliability and total cost of ownership have all been factors in this decision, he added.

Both Passport and the .Net platform have raised concerns about security. Allowing one firm to store the personal details of users worldwide means, for example, that a security breach could expose millions of credit card details and addresses. It is not clear who would bear the legal responsibility for costs.

One programmer said that the Passport system would be an attractive target for hackers. "All it takes is a script and a dictionary list. Once you crack only one account you have access to absolutely everything," he said. Another raised similar concerns about XP's automatic software-update feature.