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A Short Thought on XP

I was reminded, when visiting the Microsoft Campus the other day that it wasn’t so long ago that I used to playfully buzz the building when I was learning aerobatics out of the airfield nearby. This week and on the anniversary of 911, there’s a painful irony to the memory, which illustrates the fragile nature of personal security, whether this be in Windows or behind a building’s Windows.

On this visit my feet were firmly on the ground and I was chairing a Microsoft Forums seminar on Windows XP. I took a hard look at the future or at least what Microsoft tell us the future will be with Longhorn and Palladium and the other speakers looked at XP’s features and asked whether it was worth having or not.

What I found really interesting, was that the audience were roughly split sixty-forty between Windows 2000 and Windows NT, with only a handful of Windows XP users, as you might expect. On a day, which saw the release of the first Service Pack for XP (SP1), it was evident that a great many businesses were reluctant to give-up Windows NT, even though it was clear that Microsoft had given-up on them or at least supporting them if they insisted on such Luddite behavior.

But can you blame them? I couldn’t. After all, I said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is a pretty reasonable position to take where Operating Systems are concerned”, and after all, why spend more money upgrading, when there’s yet another new Microsoft Operating System lurking just over the horizon?

And that was really the position these very sensible people were taking. Their NT installations worked and they had finally started the long slow haul on to Windows 2000 but then Windows XP appeared and after that, just as they had come to terms with the idea that its barely out-of-the box predecessor Windows 2000 was as dead as Monty Python’s proverbial parrot, people like me, start talking about the implications of XP’s successor, Longhorn sometime after 2004.

You see, 2004, was about the time that the larger companies in the audience had expected they would have completed their Windows NT to Windows 2000 migration or indeed, Windows 2000 to Windows XP and so, quite understandably, the question on everyone’s minds involved staying-put or upgrading now, what’s the most cost effective and sensible solution.

For what it’s worth, my answer is a simple one. Forget Windows 2000 and don’t worry about the future just yet, because if it’s owned by Microsoft, it will be expensive regardless of what you choose to do today.

Windows NT, if it isn’t dead, then it’s moribund and there’s little or no point staying with it any longer. Windows 2000 might offer a couple more years of support but ultimately it’s a dead-end and there’s little or no point in upgrading twice, there are too many disadvantages.

While there’s every reason to suspect that Microsoft appears to be reinventing history and is following OS/2’s “Protected Mode” example with the Palladium/Longhorn combination beyond 2004, Windows XP, with its first service pack now with us, offers a stable, flexible and arguably more secure - don’t laugh – platform than its predecessors and so, this is really where you should be going and let the future worry about itself.

Alternatively, you could embrace Linux-fundamentalism, throw-out Windows completely, save your company millions in license fees and choose Star Office. But that’s another story involving open-toed sandals and a beard and an argument that most Windows NT and Windows 2000 users simply aren’t ready for yet.


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