Microsoft starts pitching Windows XP to corporate users

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- With this week's announcement of a second Windows XP beta-test release, Microsoft Corp. finally started to aim the upcoming new operating system at corporate users who may be wondering just what's in it for them.

Microsoft targeted Windows XP at home users first and businesses second when it first detailed the client operating system last month. And at this week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here, Brian Valentine, a senior vice president at the software vendor, pegged Windows XP as a "revolution" in the consumer PC market.

Windows XP, which is due for commercial shipment in the second half of this year, has carried a murkier message for corporate users, many of whom are still planning or working to finish their Windows 2000 rollouts one year after that release became available.

"The entire message around XP to date has been the consumer," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "The benefits to corporations have been lost. And the sad thing is the corporate market is the bigger of the two."

But in making the Beta 2 release available this week, Microsoft began to push Windows XP's promised improvements in areas such as application and device compatibility, reliability, technical support, mobile computing and wireless access. The company's Windows product team also addressed the corporate audience during talks at WinHEC.

Group product manager Shawn Sanford said companies that are already deploying Windows 2000 will want to "keep going" with those projects. But, he added, corporate users who haven't started migrating to Windows 2000 should consider going to Windows XP for the following reasons:

  • To take advantage of the Compatibility Mode, which "fools" applications designed for earlier releases of Windows so they can run on Windows XP. Sanford said the new operating system also won't block the installation of external dynamic link libraries (DLL), as Windows 2000 does, and instead will allow them to run alongside its own DLLs.
  • To gain the benefits of more reliable software that's easier to support, particularly for remote users. For example, Sanford said, IT staffers will be able to see and control the screens of mobile users they're helping.
  • To further enable user mobility and wireless support. Employees will be able to access their primary office desktop from the road, according to Sanford. Another new feature, called zero configuration, is supposed to let wireless users gain automatic access to other wireless networks that they're permitted to use.

Sanford said even some companies in the midst of Windows 2000 rollouts might consider deploying Windows XP -- which is built on the same code base -- to the rest of their users, if they're at a good breaking point in their migrations. If not, Windows 2000 will give them "90% of the business benefits that XP provides," he estimated.

"If you look at companies currently running Windows 2000, [Windows XP] is a minor release for those guys," Sanford said. But ffor any companies that haven't started the migration or deployment, "it's a bigger deal," he added.

In other news at WinHEC, Microsoft announced that Windows XP Beta 2 includes the first public beta-test release of technologies that are due to be included in its Internet Explorer 6 browser. Microsoft also unveiled a 64-bit edition of Windows XP aimed at workstation users who deal with complex applications.

In addition, Microsoft announced Windows XP support for the emerging IEEE 802.1x wireless standard and detailed plans to back the InfiniBand architecture in its upcoming Whistler server operating system.

The Portland, Ore.-based InfiniBand Trade Association -- which includes Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. -- developed the architecture and specification to improve data flow between processors and intelligent I/O devices.

This story, "Microsoft starts pitching Windows XP to corporate users" was originally published by Computerworld.

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