The reasons for launching XP commando-style

Are we sure they weren't helicopter gunships?

Are we sure they weren't helicopter gunships?

To the IT world's shock and slight bemusement Microsoft today delivered its next piece of flagship software ahead of schedule. As you read this Bill Gates will have already handed over ceremonial XP gold disks for the likes of Compaq, Dell and HP to whisk away - "the best operating system Microsoft has ever built" - and install on their PCs. In a rather extravagant formal launch the 'commemorative' disks, protected inside "six gold ZERO Halliburton P5 attaché cases" will be taken by helicopter from Microsoft head office in Redmond, Washington to the offices of Capellas, Dell and Fiorina. Obviously Microsoft wants to celebrate the early delivery of the OS, but why has it managed to keep this development project on track when so many others (remember Windows 2000?) fell by the wayside. The first consideration is purely commercial. Microsoft needs to give XP time in shops in order to make the most of the vital Christmas season. An early launch means breathing space to assess how it is performing and a chance to hone marketing and distribution efforts. However, possibly more potent are the legal spurs to Microsoft's development. Despite having already conceded ground to critics- most notably by removing the Internet Explorer icon from the desktop - Microsoft is obviously still nervous about the view the courts will have of the new operating system. It still contains a number of bundled features (including the browser - it is only the Internet Explorer icon that has been removed) and furthermore works as a gateway to .NET, another contentious issue. It is worried the courts may try to get it to unbundle some of the features as part of the legal remedies in its anti-trust trial. If the OS is already out on the street it will be much harder for judges to impose orders pressing Microsoft to change it. Gates knows this. Given the pressing need to get the software in the shops it's not surprising Microsoft wanted to ship it express to hardware manufacturers by helicopter. Although, on second thoughts, couldn't it just have allowed PC makers to download the code securely over the web? Surely one couldn't suggest Microsoft is missing some of the possibilities inherent in conducting business this way? That wouldn't be like Microsoft at all...