Microsoft has a long tradition of adding features to new versions
of Windows, and Windows XP is a chip off the old block. A really
big chip. Usually, the features in Windows are, at best, adequate
to their functions. Rarely are they competitive with the best
products on the market, and rarely do they put competitors out
of business. Paint and WordPad and HyperTerminal were never
a threat to real programs in those markets. Even where Microsoft
does a fairly good job, as with Terminal Services, a large market
is usually left over for companies like Citrix to add value.
But Windows XP, the most significant version since Windows
95, goes a lot further. There's been a lot of press about the
inclusion of Windows
Media Player and Windows
Messenger, but other new features have gone relatively unnoticed.
Let's look at some of the markets that we used to think of as
applications software that are now part of the operating system.
The remote control market--a surprisingly vibrant one with over
a dozen companies still competing--is toast. Remote
Desktop and Remote
Assistance in Windows XP are XP-only features, but one must
assume that over time, as with other versions of Windows, critical
mass will build up. Especially in the retail market, where Symantec
PCAnywhere dominates, the run rate will probably drop quickly
and precipitously. The corporate market will probably last longer,
since corporations will have to manage heterogeneous environments
for years and won't be able to commit for some time to an XP-only
solution, but it will happen some day. Terminal
Services, built into Windows 2000 and Windows .NET Servers
(or whatever they are calling it this week), has already signaled
the eventual end of a market for remote control for remote administration
System Restore This feature actually first appeared
in Windows ME. The system automatically marks safe restore points
and allows you to restore the system state to what it was then.
Third-party products, such as Roxio's GoBack3, are much more
full-featured, but the basic functionality of System
Restore is enough to raise the bar considerably for these
companies. (Windows XP's Device Driver Rollback feature is more
icing on this cake.)
Windows has had backup for a long time, but it always stunk.
Nobody who knew what they were doing would use it. Windows XP's
utility is not a bad one though, and with the ability to
write CD-R disks built into the system, it's very practical
for modern systems.
Time was you needed to get third party software in order to
write a CD-ROM. Usually it came with your drive, but at least
someone was getting paid for it. Now that Windows XP does this
natively, that third party market will also have work harder
to convince people that they are better than the "free" version.
ZIP Utilities It had to happen. Windows XP works with
ZIP files natively, making them look like a compressed subdirectory.
As with any utility, many users will prefer their old familiar
WinZip or whatever, but look for that population to dwindle
Internet Connection Firewall
It's rudimentary in the extreme, but XP comes with a kind of
firewall. In fact, I wouldn't worry too much about third parties
on this one. XP’s Internet
Connection Firewall (ICF) is restrictive on normal use;
for instance, you can't share files on the local network when
it's running. In fact, it's probably good for everyone that
the ICF is in there, because a lot of people won't buy a real
firewall, but at least they will have the ICF.
Windows Media Player
This one has had a lot of attention. Personally, I think WMP8
is the best thing out there, but there's a lot of personal taste
involved in these matters, and a lot of resentment of Microsoft.
And out of the box, WMP8 won't have a high quality MP3 ripper
(although, contrary to many news reports, it will play MP3 files).
But there are interfaces to allow third parties to plug in new
rippers, and the WMA format that the product prefers has higher
quality than MP3 with much better compression. This is a complicated
market, but Windows XP puts more pressure on it.
Encrypting File System
File System (EFS) encrypts all data on the disk, and requires
the user's login to decrypt it. If the computer--or even just
the disk--is stolen, the thief won't get anything. EFS, however,
is available only in Windows XP Pro, one of many reasons why
notebook users should avoid the Home version. There are many
third party security tools, but the EFS approach, which first
appeared in Windows 2000, is the right one.
User State Migration Tool
Like many third party utilities from Altiris and Symantec, among
others, Windows XP can migrate
a user's system settings to their new system after the installation
of Windows XP so that they don't have to redo all that work
on the new system. The third party tools, especially those from
Altiris, migrate a lot more in terms of third party applications
and are better suited to corporate networks, but many users
will be happy enough with what XP provides.
Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP)
Managing group policies can be complicated, and there's a technique
Set of Policy that lets you make speculative changes in
policies to see what the effects would be on specific users
and groups. FAZAM 2000 is a utility that brings this technique
to Windows 2000, but it comes built into Windows XP (when used
with Windows .Net Server).
Exactly what market Windows Messenger competes in is tough to
say. It's the consolidation of several products, mostly MSN
Messenger and NetMeeting. NetMeeting's market died a few years
ago, so I guess there was no harm in it hitching a ride onto
XP. Will Windows Messenger finally give Microsoft a leg up on
AOL because of the added NetMeeting features? It does make it
a better program in many ways, but it's really the users on
the system that make IM better.