Following the launch extravaganza for Microsoft's Windows XP, the software giant is anxious to reassure businesses worried about existing software investments.
If you are currently moving to Windows 2000, you should continue on that path, but otherwise XP is the way to go, according to Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer. "On paper, we commit to supporting Windows 2000 for three years but, in reality, we will continue to support it as long as people want us to," he said.
Ballmer was speaking to Computer Weekly after the XP launch event at London's Royal Festival Hall last Thursday. He was keen to promote what he sees as the many compelling reasons to upgrade.
There are 18 major security enhancements in XP, it is 10 times as reliable as Windows 2000 and takes less than an hour per machine to upgrade, he said. "This is absolutely the biggest thing we have done since Windows 95, and more significant than anything since Windows 3.1," he added.
Ballmer denied that Windows XP makes excessive demands on PC hardware, forcing people to upgrade. "The minimum processor we are recommending is 233MHz. If you have got a machine you have bought in the past three years, it will run XP happily. You might want to put a bit more memory in it, but that's about it. If your computer is over five years old it probably makes sense to buy a new one."
The good news for businesses is that XP is going to be around for some time. "It will be at least two years before there is a significant change," he said.
"If you are currently rolling out Windows 2000, go ahead. Otherwise, go with XP. We have intercepted quite a few companies that were moving to Windows 2000 and convinced them that XP makes more sense."
As for the competition from the open source community, Ballmer said that although free software may seem attractive it is a false economy when you consider the time-saving features built into XP.
"The problem with Linux is that they have a collaborative model - there are a lot of people involved in any changes and they cannot innovate as fast as we can.
"We cannot compete on price with a free product, but if you average out the number of hours a person uses a computer you will find that using XP over a year would probably work out to less than 50 cents a day. Compare that with what a person's time costs," he said.
Ballmer also highlighted a developing trend - that PCs bought for home use are often better-specified than those used in business. This, he said, raised employees' expectations of what technology could do and put pressure on companies to move faster.
"As long as we continue doing a good job, people will want our products," he added. "The most important thing is that people say they like using XP."
Ballmer: why you should move to XP
Steve Ballmer (above) suggested the following reasons for moving to Windows XP:
- Remote desktop allows users to create a virtual session on their desktop computer from any computer based on Windows 95 or later operating system, giving them remote access to all of their data and applications
- Wireless 802.1x networking support provides secure access and performance improvements for wireless networks
- Remote assistance allows users to have a peer or IT professional remotely control their PC to demonstrate a process or help solve a problem
- Windows messenger can communicate with anyone in real time using text, voice, and video
- Policy-based desktop management allows group policies and roaming user profiles, simplifying desktop and user management when using a Windows 2000 server infrastructure
- Multi-language support allows users to create, read, and edit documents in many different languages
- Internet Explorer 6 includes many new and enhanced features that simplify tasks, increase reliability, and help maintain the privacy of personal information on the Web
- Encrypting file system provides high levels of protection from hackers and data theft by transparently encrypting files with a randomly generated key
- The User State Migration Tool can migrate a user's data and application/operating settings from their old to their new desktop.