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Microsoft pushes XP switch

The software giant launches a central Web site with tools to help businesses that are considering a switch to Windows XP.

Microsoft, hoping to drive greater adoption of its Windows XP operating system, will on Tuesday unveil a new central Web site with revamped tools to help IT administrators make the switch.

The new Desktop Center site includes an updated version of the Windows XP Application Compatibility Toolkit, a set of tools Microsoft devised to assess whether current business applications will work under Windows XP Professional, Microsoft's latest operating system for corporate customers.

Rogers Weed, corporate vice president of Windows product management at Microsoft, said the tool usually helps IT administrators determine that they need to make minimal changes to their existing software roster to run XP.

"A lot of people don't realize that XP is significantly more compatible (with existing applications)," Weed said. "In general, organizations will find 95 percent or more of their apps are fine."

The Desktop Center site also has multiple tools for dealing with the 5 percent of applications that don't make the cut. "We find there are some generic fixes that can address a broad class of the problems we see, and there are tools in the kit to help apply those," Weed said.

Paul DeGroot, an analyst for research firm Directions on Microsoft, said software compatibility has been a minor issue in the tepid pace of corporate adoption of Windows XP.

"XP runs a lot of stuff that Windows 2000 didn't," he said. "There are particular applications you come across where compatibility is an issue, but I don't think it's a show-stopper for Windows XP."

Hardware compatibility has been much more of a factor, DeGroot said. Windows XP requires significantly more memory and other resources than Windows 2000, and many businesses are trying to stretch PC upgrades they made three years ago in anticipation of Y2K. "Large customers hate to go and shake things up on the desktop," he said. "If people are working fine with Windows 2000, they're going to leave them be," said DeGroot.

The Desktop Center site also includes a new version of Microsoft's Baseline Security Analyzer, a tool that checks corporate desktops for the presence of current software updates and patches and for configuration errors that could pose risks.

"We keep investing in tools and information to help customers with deployment," Weed said. "We feel really good about the business case for upgrading to Windows XP, and we want to give customers tools that help them see those advantages."