COMMENTARY-- So Windows XP is finally coming out of the chute, and after one characteristically long drumroll. I've been writing about it for months--incessantly for the past few days. Others have written reams about it, too. And I have to admit that I have been hard-pressed to think of anything more to say.
Thank goodness for fellow columnist and esteemed colleague Patrick Houston, who suggested that XP's official debut is best left to restating, succinctly, the 10 most important things you need to know about Microsoft's presumably latest and greatest OS.
Since he is so smart, so wise, so handsome--and did I mention that he is my boss?--I will just take his advice.
- The reason experienced computer users will want XP is stability. According to Microsoft, the OS is 10 to 30 times more stable than Windows 98 or Me. This has been borne out by my personal experience.
- If you're buying a new system, you will want XP because the user interface is less intimidating. The OS is also more task oriented--especially in supporting digital music and digital photography.
- I don't like the new pricing any more than most of you do--or what one MS exec described as a "very vocal minority." While I am not wild about paying $270 to upgrade three home machines, I don't think Microsoft will relent, especially since upgrade sales are not the big moneymaker they once were.
- Prediction: Some hacker will conjure up an "easy" way for people to circumvent XP's pesky copy-protection issues and let you install XP wherever you want. I have heard of these hacks already. Sure, making copies of Windows 98 was illegal, but there really wasn't any way to stop you. And if you copied the software onto a second home machine, say, it really did not seem wrong. But with XP it is wrong, and you cannot plead ignorance. If that catches on, what happens next? Will Microsoft assert the jackboot?
- XP makes networking much easier, especially for home use and for wireless connectivity. This gives you new things to do with your PC by making it easier for you to communicate. For instance, XP gives you a reason to buy a Webcam: video instant messages. Wireless networking still needs some evolving to be absolutely mainstream, but now there's a second OS (Apple had the first) really optimized for wireless local area networking.
- I don't think zillions of people are going to rush to the store to buy a new PC just because XP is here. But if you have been thinking about upgrading, low hardware prices and a sleek new OS ought to be reason enough, right? And you'll be helping our battered economy. Check out the new hardware based on the AMD processors.
- As much as I believe any big company or government, I believe Microsoft wants to protect your privacy. I am not afraid of what MS will do with personal data--read its privacy policies. But I am concerned about its ability to protect my data from bad guys. XP is the beginning of the .Net era of Internet and Web-based applications talking to one another and sharing data. Security issues are as big a limiting factor here as anything else.
- Microsoft deserves praise for improving the level of technical support and adding user-to-user remote support to XP. This is a step down the road to computers that know how to fix themselves.
- If you are a corporate customer, Microsoft is pushing very hard to get you into a licensing program for both Windows XP and Office XP. Maybe you don't like being pushed--especially as hard as Microsoft did--but get over it: That's how you'll be buying software from here on out.
- Should you upgrade? First run the Windows Upgrade Advisor. If you can upgrade--and most people can, especially with an inexpensive memory bump to 256 MB--I recommend it. Wait if you are using Windows 2000. Though XP is faster, you already have enhanced stability. But if you are running the brain-damaged Windows Me or you're just tired of crashy Windows, spend the money.
I'll wrap up my week of XP introduction coverage Friday with notes from my interviews with Bill Gates and Jim Allchin, some of which you can hear (along with other XP discussion) on my CNET Radio program at noon PT. You can listen over the air (910AM in the Bay Area or XM Satellite Radio Channel 130) or Internet (www.cnetradio.com) to the live feed, or visit the Web page to listen anytime to the streaming audio-on-demand.
And thanks to the hundreds of you who answered my call for questions for Bill Gates and Jim Allchin.
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