Microsoft's new OS is the cost to users
First published in Business
October 23, 2001 Issue #626: The high-tech office column
by ALAN ZISMAN (c)
Last week, we looked
newest operating system, Windows XP. It combines the robustness of
2000 with most of the compatibility of Windows 98. The new, more
user interface is also, in many ways, easier to use.
So what's not to like?
Only last year, Microsoft released Windows 2000
aimed at business
users and Windows ME aimed at consumers. Windows XP may be too much too
It's designed for new hardware. Think lots of
RAM and lots of
drive space, a fast processor and preferably a big monitor. It may run
on some older systems, but it really wants a computer designed in the
year or two to be at its best. (Hardware vendors are hoping that
XP sales will help kickstart lagging PC sales.)
It focuses on the PC as the centre of a digital
lots of built-in support for digital cameras, music downloads and
movies. Home users may like these features, but do we want it to make
easier to watch DVD movies or download music at work?
Ease-of-use functions require users to do things
In some cases, this may be a minor irritant: I don't want to store my
work in the "My documents" folder, for example, or my photos in "My
thank you. In other cases, users are, by default, pointed to Microsoft
or Microsoft-approved businesses.
When I open a folder full of photos, the list of
options on the
left includes useful functions such as viewing a slide show, making the
photo the desktop wallpaper or renaming the file. Other options, such
to "Order prints online," while handy, direct me to a limited number of
Windows XP really encourages users to get a
Hotmail account and
to register for a Microsoft Passport, providing personal information to
Microsoft and selected online merchants. Competitors get no such free
Users don't have to sign on to either service, but to get online tech
from Microsoft, they will need a Passport account.
Like Office XP (and, according to Microsoft, all
the rest of the
company's applications by early next year), Windows XP uses product
Designed to limit casual software piracy, this generates a code number
at installation based on the computer's hardware. This code has to be
into Microsoft, either automatically via the Internet or by phone in
to use Windows XP. (Corporate customers are exempt.) Many home users
smaller businesses have routinely "bent" the software licensing
using a single copy of Windows on more than one computer. No more.
that Windows Product Activation does not automatically send Microsoft
The result is a decidedly mixed blessing. Assuming you
are trying to
run it on a fairly new, fairly powerful computer and don't need to use
exotic hardware add-ons or software, Windows XP performs as advertised:
it's more stable, faster and easier to use than Windows 98 or ME.
If you've got computers that are more than two years
old, however, upgrading
to this operating system is probably more trouble than benefit. It will
probably show up on the next computers you purchase, anyway.
And for businesses with a mix of hardware and a mix of
in the short term it just adds another complication that, with a look
feel that's quite different from previous versions of Windows, will
technical support and staff training more complex.