NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Windows XP: 10 things to know
Microsoft unveils its latest operating system

by David Coursey, ZDNET, March 2001

Feb. 14 — It would be easy, at least based on what Microsoft showed in Seattle on Tuesday, to lampoon Windows XP as "Windows for the Inexperienced." Or even as the "For Dummies" release of the operating system. But forget that for now: Windows XP, the operating system formerly known as Whistler, is designed for people who are afraid of their computers — and for those of us who love and support them.

IT IS, as Bill Gates said, the most important release since Windows 95, and it will change the way many people relate to computers (especially people who haven't bought one yet).

I attended a special sneak preview Bill Gates conducted for analysts, reporters and pundits. I can tell you this: There will be big books written about the new operating system as well as many future AnchorDesk columns.

But there are 10 things you need to know right now, and here they are:

No. 1. The most important thing about Windows XP is that it replaces a "toy" operating system — Windows 9X — with technology designed for reliability and robust performance, the Windows NT/2000 kernel. Putting this technology into a consumer OS is the key to everything else.

No. 2. With the new OS comes a new, friendlier user experience. I think Microsoft has finally beat the Apple Macintosh for ease-of-use. Goodbye, Mac snobs!

No. 3. We'll have to wait for testing, but Windows XP looks exceptionally fast, especially for media-related tasks such as displaying a collection of thumbnails of your photo collection.

No. 4. Windows XP is to Windows Media Player what Windows 98 was to Internet Explorer. Media Player has been dramatically improved and integrated into the OS. Goodbye, Real Networks. (Hello, Justice Department?)

No. 5. Remote support is built into Windows XP. This will be a boon to people — like me and probably you — who get called upon to solve other people's problems. You’ll be able to log onto their machines over the network or Internet and fix the problem. No more, "Now, Dad, click the Start button and open the Control Panel."

No. 6. Windows XP really is designed to improve the user experience. Microsoft has looked at things people want to do with their computers — especially in the home networking and digital media areas — and built that functionality directly into Windows XP. Things that used to require some expertise become much simpler, such as working with photo, video, and music files.

No. 7. The new operating system is designed for shared computers. Because it has built-in security, each user gets his or her own protected space. And the new quick log-on feature makes changing users fast and simple. Painless, too, because users can leave applications running. Need to check e-mail while the kids are playing games? You can stop the game, quick-key over to your mail, then quick-key back to the game at the point of interruption.

No. 8. Yes, this looks like a consumer operating system, especially from the demonstration Microsoft provided. But there are two versions of the new operating system, one for homes and an expanded professional edition for offices. Microsoft needs to start explaining how moving to XP would benefit business customers.

No. 9. Coming soon will be Office XP, which brings improved ways of making common tasks much more simple in Microsoft Office. I'll be beta testing it the OS and Office XP and will report back to you.

No. 10. Beta Two of Windows XP will be available “soon,” with the final release due "in the second half of the year." Pricing will be "comparable to what we've done in the past."

It's too early to make specific recommendations for upgrading, except to say if your machine was delivered with Windows 95, you're probably out of luck. Microsoft says any machine that runs Windows 2000 ought to be able to run XP. We'll see.

At first glance, Windows XP looks like a dumbed-down version of Windows with a slick new interface. But those are exactly the features that will help millions of computing novices use their machines far more productively.

Under the covers, the more technical among us may be pleased to find a much more stable operating system that supports multiple home users quite elegantly, and gives us better access to our daily tasks, too.

But this is all on the basis of only a few hours of discussion and one very well-produced demonstration. On Thursday, I'll delve into XP in more depth. For now, though, suffice it say that at first glance, XP promises an experience, alright — one worth some very close watching.

2001 ZD Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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