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Commentary: The myths of Windows XP

Despite Microsoft's hype about Windows XP, most enterprises are not in for a significantly different experience.

By Mike Silver, Gartner Analyst

Despite Microsoft's hype about Windows XP, most enterprises are not in for a significantly different experience.

See news story:
Microsoft readies XP for late October
In many ways, Microsoft is its own greatest competitor and threat. In February 2000, the company launched its long-awaited Windows 2000. Barely five months later, it started confusing users with the launch, hype and messaging around its .Net initiative, and some enterprises considered slowing Windows 2000 deployments. In February 2001, Microsoft began hyping Windows XP (formerly code-named Whistler) and had IS managers around the world questioning their Windows 2000 deployment and timing decisions.

As Gartner predicted last year, Microsoft, after many false starts, will finally ship Windows XP in the fourth quarter of this year, but the announcement will likely slow Windows 2000 adoption further.

What is Windows XP?
For enterprises, Windows XP is a relatively minor update to Windows 2000 that focuses mainly on "fit and finish." For consumers, it represents the first version of Windows based on Windows NT technology designed and marketed toward them. The Professional version is a superset of the Home version and includes consumer features that enterprises may want to disable, such as Microsoft's MovieMaker software, first included in Windows Me. Major changes include the following:

• Windows Update
• Device Driver Rollback (PC Health)
• Remote Control (single-user terminal services)
• New Start menu, control panel and user interface elements
• Fast user switching
• Encrypted file system support for redirected folders
• Better support for roaming wireless networking
• Enhanced policies
• Credential Manager
• Personal Firewall

Windows XP myths
Gartner's assessment is that a number of widely held impressions about Windows XP are incorrect, such as the following:

• Windows XP is only for consumers. Windows XP will have a consumer client, an enterprise client, a 64-bit client and an embedded client, as well as several server versions. Although the main push behind Windows XP will be to get Windows 2000 technology into the hands of consumers, Windows XP will affect the enterprise.
• Windows XP will have a new user interface. Microsoft is making some subtle changes to the user interface to make it easier for a novice to find things. However, enterprises can turn the new user interface elements off to make the OS look like Windows 2000.
• Enterprises must standardize on either Windows 2000 or Windows XP and should not mix the two. Gartner believes that the differences between the two versions of the operating system are minimal, and they may be mixed in an enterprise client OS strategy of "managed diversity."
• Enterprises that have deployed Windows 2000 will have to upgrade to Windows XP. Again, with minor differences between the two versions, most users will not see sufficient benefits from the changes to justify an upgrade to the new operating system. Of course, users who need specific features should consider the upgrade.
• Windows XP is a major new version of Windows. Gartner views Windows XP as a minor service release for Windows 2000 (much as Windows 98 was to Windows 95).

In most cases, enterprises in the process of migrating to Windows 2000 should continue with their rollout plans, but they should consider adopting Windows XP for new machines that come in as early as the first quarter of next year. Enterprises not planning to adopt Windows 2000 until very late in 2001 or after that should consider adopting Windows XP instead. Enterprises that deploy Windows 2000 should consider upgrading to Windows XP only those users who need specific features of the new operating system, if the cost of the upgrade can be justified.

(For related commentary on how Windows XP will affect Windows 9x, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.

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