March 26, 2001, 3:28 PM — Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s next operating system, takes fuller shape with the
release of Beta version 2 on Sunday. And judging from PC World's examination of
a late pre-beta-2 build, it should be one of the most exciting--and controversial--products
ever put out by the technology behemoth.
The controversy over the OS formerly code-named Whistler stems from Windows
Product Activation, a new and stringent copy-protection scheme that requires
upgrade customers to contact Microsoft for an ID number (a procedure separate
from the usual registration process).
That feature, which could hinder some installations, isn't the only potential
upgrade hurdle. Microsoft already anticipates that XP may conflict with some
system BIOSs, hardware, and applications. As a result, installing the new OS
could be a real hassle for people who don't have state-of-the-art PCs. You'll
also need a gigabyte of free disk space.
However, Windows XP inherits Windows 2000's stability and security, and it
will be even more appealing than Windows Millennium Edition to digital photo,
video, and audio enthusiasts. XP also includes Windows Me's highly popular software
for returning a system to the way it was before installation of a buggy driver
Expanding the Family
Windows XP will appear later this year in two versions: the business-oriented
Professional and the consumer-focused Home Edition. The near-Beta 2 build we
tested was of Windows XP Professional, and we found it to be essentially the
next version of Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft's current OS for businesses.
Windows XP Home Edition replaces Windows Me and its Windows 9x antecedents,
marking the end of the line for that MS-DOS-based family.
Home Edition is essentially a subset of Professional, omitting several nifty
tools that Microsoft has deemed appropriate only for business users. But even
the lowliest Windows XP Home Edition system will benefit from the Windows NT/2000
family's software stability and user and file security.
Nevertheless, Windows XP is almost sure to be less compatible with legacy hardware
and applications than Windows Me and its predecessors. While Microsoft has labored
to improve XP's compatibility with games, many DOS and Windows applications
will be nonstarters; Microsoft says users with computers and peripherals released
before 2000 may run into problems as well. A Microsoft product manager predicts
that 90 percent of upgraders will experience 100 percent success. The remaining
10 percent will encounter difficulties ranging from minor to catastrophic.