Remembering Windows XP's early days

I am amused by the current lovefest going on with Windows XP. It’s the greatest operating system ever, in the minds of some, especially compared to the allegedly bloated, slow Windows Vista. Ironically, some of the biggest defenders of XP were singing a very different tune a few short years ago.

I am amused by the current lovefest going on with Windows XP. It’s the greatest operating system ever, in the minds of some, especially compared to the allegedly bloated, slow Windows Vista. In fact, InfoWorld has gone so far as to kick off a “Save XP” petition drive.

Vista bashers really hate it when you point out that the same criticisms being leveled at Vista today were commonly aimed at XP after its launch. Fortunately, I’ve found a near-perfect example of this trend. It’s illuminating, and ironically, it comes from InfoWorld blogger Randall Kennedy, who has been bashing Vista and hyping the “Save XP” campaign relentlessly on his Enterprise Desktop blog. His latest entry dismisses any comparison between Vista now and XP then:

One of the arguments I hear in defense of Windows Vista's bloated footprint is that it's simply a repeat of the situation faced by users when Windows XP first shipped. Back then, the logic goes, users were complaining about Windows XP's CPU and memory requirements, with many resisting the upgrade push because they simply didn't want to make the necessary hardware commitment. …

However, the truth is that "Windows 6.0" [Vista] is really only the second mainstream iteration of the current Windows platform (Windows 2000 doesn't count since it was never a mainstream product). As such, there simply is no real precedent from which to draw such conclusions.

In the same post, Kennedy goes on to rhapsodize over Windows XP:

As those of us who remember can attest, the jump from DOS/Windows to Windows XP was a quantum leap forward in Microsoft's OS architecture. …

The introduction of Windows XP was a watershed moment for the PC industry, one that firmly cemented Microsoft's role as the pace-setter for the desktop.

Yes, XP was totally awesome when it was officially released on October 25, 2001. A quantum leap forward. A watershed moment for the PC.

Or not. Thankfully, Google is here to step in and help out some of us old fogies who’ve been in the industry for 20 years or so and can’t quite remember things as clearly as we used to.

Those of us who are willing to supplement our memories with some help from Google can attest that XP was not welcomed with open arms. In fact, it was slammed by magazines like InfoWorld, where P. J. Connolly and the very same Randall C. Kennedy published this not-so-glowing review in the October 26, 2001 issue:

Hopeless optimism must be a fundamental part of human nature, because we want to believe that new operating systems truly represent an improvement on their predecessors. It's easy to point to certain features in a new OS as examples of progress, but end-users often find that a new OS performs like molasses compared to the version they were using. As a result, CTOs wanting to capitalize on the benefits of a new OS may find that new hardware investments are necessary -- and expensive -- requirements.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's Windows XP appears to be maintaining that tradition …

Windows 2000 significantly outperformed Windows XP. In the most extreme scenario, our Windows XP system took nearly twice as long to complete a workload as did the Windows 2000 client. Our testing also suggests that companies determined to deploy Windows XP should consider ordering desktop systems with dual CPUs to get the most out of the new OS. …

Sound familiar?

Let’s compare and contrast those 2007 statements with their 2001 counterparts. Remember, this is the same publication, with the same author's name in the by-line.

On Windows 2000:

2001: “IT departments should take advantage of license downgrade provisions and continue to press forward with Windows 2000 deployments until the installed hardware base catches up with XP.”

2007: “Windows 2000 doesn’t count since it was never a mainstream product.”

On why your old OS was better:

2001: “Windows XP increasingly ate the dust of Windows 2000 as load ramped up, regardless of machine specs or Office version.”

2007: “[E]xhaustive testing confirms that Windows Vista is at least twice as slow as Windows XP when running on the same hardware.”

On hardware:

2001: “[U]ntil 2GHz desktop PCs become commonplace, we have a hard time recommending widespread adoption of Windows XP at all.”

2007: “Windows XP SP3 … absolutely screams on today's high-end, multi-core desktops.”

On “bloated” new features:

2001: “Shops lured by XP features should weigh their options carefully. In many cases, these features may not be compelling enough to justify saddling your end-users with a slower OS.”

2007: “Vista, which is basically Windows XP with more "stuff" heaped on top, and you begin to see why so many users are balking at the upgrade message. There's simply not enough "meat" to justify the pain involved.”

Get the picture? Back in 2001, Kennedy and InfoWorld were bashing XP and recommending that their readers stay with Windows 2000. Today, they’re bashing Vista and hawking their “save XP” campaign. But judging by the progression that XP made in six years, all that the Windows Vista architecture needs is time and a hardware replacement cycle or two.

And we'll be able to read all about in InfoWorld's "Save Vista" campaign.