Readers: Windows XP isn't worth the trouble

If News.com's readers are any indication, Windows XP may be a tough sell. The reasons: a new activation requirement and few compelling features.

8 min read
Readers: It's not worth the trouble

By Lara Wright
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
October 25, 2001, 4:00 a.m. PT

A new technology meant to prevent illegal copying of Microsoft's latest operating system is stopping many people from buying it, according to an informal survey of CNET News.com readers.

Windows XP, to be released Thursday, touts improved security, resistance to crashing and a raft of new features. But it also comes with a technology called Product Activation that forces the customer to activate the product with Microsoft, something that many people are reluctant to do for privacy reasons.

After a person registers Windows XP over the phone or through Microsoft's Web site, the software giant locks the operating system to that person's PC hardware configuration. If the customer changes or upgrades six components within 120 days, Windows XP can be disabled until the customer contacts Microsoft for reactivation.

Microsoft also could use the anti-piracy technology to deactivate the operating system if a business customer were to fail to pay fees under a new licensing plan, under which customers must upgrade every two years.

"I have bought thousands of dollars worth of Microsoft products for myself and my business. However, as a developer, my computers are constantly being changed and upgraded, and this new licensing scheme will be too much of a hassle," wrote Don Fitzpatrick, president of Brookfield, Wis.-based InterNetworx Systems, which makes business software for small and medium-sized companies.

He was among more than two-thirds of the respondents who answered with a vehement "no" to this News.com question posted on the Web site over the past month: "Do you think Windows XP is worth buying?" Half of those who responded negatively cited the activation feature and licensing changes as top reasons for skipping the upgrade.

In a survey conducted by market researcher Giga Information Group and Windows NT/2000 integrator Sunbelt Software, 36 percent of 4,550 technology professionals said they would consider alternative products to Microsoft's in light of the licensing changes.

Many News.com readers also complained about the hardware requirements, the price and the integration of some features, which they said amounted to unfair competition. These readers expressed little faith that the software would be secure, compatible with other programs or relatively bug-free, adding that the new operating system offered no compelling reason to switch from Windows 2000.

"We need stability, efficiency and economy," wrote reader J. Mark Egermeier, technical director of Answer Phone Telemessaging in Tulsa, Okla. "Microsoft offers increasing complexity and bloat along with a scary migration toward 'leased' software. We want an operating system, not a Swiss Army knife."

Windows XP did get positive reviews from some readers who said they have used the public test version of the operating system. Many of those readers said it is faster, crashes less often and is easier on the eyes than previous Windows systems.

"I have been using XP for the last couple of months. I have purposely tried to overwhelm the operating system and have failed. I'm amazed at the stability of the OS," wrote Tom Witwer, a business manager from Phoenix. "I've bounced between all my software packages, kept three or four programs running at once (never could before), and I've even played my graphics-intensive games and go right back to work afterward without a restart."

Below are more comments from News.com readers.

Activating Big Brother?
Neither I nor many of my colleagues will be upgrading to Windows XP, and for good reason. It's an unnecessary upgrade, with some whiz-bang features that are far from essential. Neither is it inexpensive, and the Product Activation leaves a Big Brother bad taste in my mouth.
--Andy Blair, geologist, Ottawa

eXtra Pathetic. The only value in XP is for Microsoft, who forces customers to register to protect itself. Where is the protection for customers? Where are features to fix Windows when it breaks? Instead, we get features to fix Microsoft's revenue stream. XP offers no value to me.
--Daniel Will-Harris, writer and designer, Marin County, Calif.

XP is more of a downgrade and not worth buying. Too many issues--spyware and incompatibilities being the most important. I don't need the eye candy or Micro$oft controlling my PC.
--Juan Bravo, chief technical officer, New York

You have to call Microsoft each time XP needs to be installed and explain why you are reinstalling it. For people who have to format their hard drives frequently, this is ridiculous. They've taken anti-piracy practices a bit too far.
--Sharon Powlish, computer user, Bridgewater, N.J.

Tired of pricey upgrades
I'm tired of Microsoft's frequent, expensive upgrades. I've never copied their OS to any of my five machines--each has a validly licensed copy, but I'm not shelling out so much money for so little anymore. I've been switching my kid's machines and my own to Linux.
--Alvin Rees, systems information security manager, South San Francisco, Calif.

As owning a Windows system becomes more expensive, my company is finding that new machines we get are FreeBSD (Mac/Intel) or perhaps Linux. Bringing a Windows system into an organization is like bringing in a hungry mouth that needs to be constantly fed with dollars a few times a year.
--Tom Ritchford, senior engineer, New York

Like every other Windows update in the last few years, it offers few new features and seems to tighten Microsoft's stranglehold on the technology industry. It seems silly to force us to keep upgrading every few months just because Microsoft needs to meet earnings expectations.
--Hal Widlansky, chief information officer, Los Angeles

Good play for gamers?
If I could avoid buying Windows XP, I would. But as a gamer, Microsoft will ensure that I have no choice. How can I enjoy an XPerience that is constantly trying to advertise Microsoft and deceive me into signing up for services like Passport? I want control of my OS, not vice versa.
--Andy DePue, computer programmer, Greer, S.C.

I've been beta-testing XP Home and Professional Editions for over a year, and this is the best OS I have ever used, period. Its stability is outstanding; I have not had a single "blue screen of death" during my testing. I have been using the Home Edition RTM code (2600) as my primary OS for about the past month, and I find it far superior to WinMe and Win98SE, and its gaming compatibility far exceeds Win2000.
--Mark Sullivan, technical analyst, Chicago

Right for some
It might be worth buying once but not several times if as a household you have several PCs. A license should be per household, not individual machines.
--Nick D. Millyard, Web site promoter, Lone Tree, Colo.

Windows XP is not worth buying if you have Windows 2000 deployed in your business, because it does not offer much more. But it is worth buying if you have Windows 95, 98, Me or NT 4 deployed in your business or home, because XP is more stable and offers better features. Although XP requires more PC resources, the features are worth getting the extra RAM and/or disk for.
--Yves Crevecoeur, assistant vice president of distributed system development, New York

Bloated with features
Windows XP is, in a word, bloatware. XP is increasingly packed full of useless features, tricks and hidden settings. XP drags down performance of even the fastest new computers and is simply Windows 2000 with a face-lift. Serious users and businesses should stick with Windows 2000.
--Nick Leali, student and member of the Ohio State University Chemistry Computer Support group, Columbus, Ohio

I do not want to be an XP user because of the piracy protections and also because of what I assume to be lots of bloated code due to the built-in new programs--instant messenger, etc. Even though Microsoft tells you that you can default to other software, it's very hard to do. I still can't figure out how to get rid of Media Player starting whenever I put an audio CD in the drive.
--George Fiala, direct-marketing executive, Brooklyn, N.Y.

WinXP is too bloated with "features" that are totally worthless and uninstallable. I am beginning to wonder if Windows XP is an OS or just a bunch of "features" added to Win2K and put in a different-color box.
--Garth Honhart, education applications engineer, Mountain View, Calif.

Seattle Space Needle photo Passport to insecurity
Microsoft seems to have hard-coded Passport into XP and as a result is literally forcing anyone who uses the OS to use the Passport service for online commerce. I have huge issues with all of my vital information being stored on my computer as a file that anyone (with access) can snatch. For me my decision was reached after reading the information available on Gibson Research Center pertaining to XP and Passport security.
--Ryan A. Allen, Web engineer, Sacramento, Calif.

Though Microsoft claims the personal firewall will entirely cease malicious use of it, the company is providing unrestricted program access to raw sockets, so anyone with a basic knowledge of Windows programming can create a worm (using the security flaws that Microsoft is renowned for and that will inevitably show up in XP) to create XP-specific DDoS attacks. This essentially makes all of their rewrites from the Windows 95 TCP/IP stack for naught, since they have degraded the security of it by doing so.
--Ben Clarke, technology development manager, Toronto

I'm still using Windows 95. Why? Because the security holes are pretty well known and patched now. Hackers aren't really after Windows 95 anymore.
--Norma Marion, executive, Zanesville, Ohio

Readers rave
I think my wife summed it up best when after looking at my monitor and seeing Windows XP running, she said, "Is that a Macintosh you are using?" I think WinXP has a fresh, clean interface, something that is very welcome in the Windows world--Mac users have had that monopoly long enough.
--Paul Colton, venture capitalist, San Diego

XP is a monumental step forward for home users. Now they have a reliable, easy-to-use, easy-to-do-things-on OS. The file system does not lose files. Parents can block kids from going to certain areas on the computer or deleting things. New features make it easier to do things, not the least of which is the new Start menu. Once in a while, a marketing slogan proves true: Windows XP is a great eXPerience.
--Ryan Wine, student at Academy of Computer Careers, Turnersville, N.J.

Win9x/Me is finally dead! Hallelujah! No more buggy, unstable home OSes. We are finally getting the "convergence" product that brings together the home OS and the office OS into a single, stable platform. Frankly, I am ecstatic at the prospect of seeing the Win9x/Me platform go away.
--Matt Smith, network support tech, Lansing, Mich.

I have been running Windows XP for about a year now (from beta 1 on). I think it is a great OS and a must for Windows 9x/Me users. All this complaining about Media Player, digital imaging and communications software integration is ridiculous. All this software was a part of Windows Me, and that didn't bring the competitors to their knees. Microsoft has included a basic set of programs and features based on consumer need.
--Eric Renken, software engineer, Niles, Mich.

Windows XP is the best release of an operating system. As a staunch supporter I thought nothing could top Windows 2000. Windows XP has proved me wrong by allowing more of my older software to work with its new compatibility mode. Stability is equal to that of Windows 2000.
--Robert Johnson, technical support trainer, Almere, Netherlands   "="">


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