XP: What are the corporate benefits?

Analyst group Giga Information finds it strange that Microsoft is focusing almost exclusively on the consumer benefits of Windows...

Analyst group Giga Information finds it strange that Microsoft is focusing almost exclusively on the consumer benefits of Windows XP, given that it offers some unparalleled corporate features.

Taking into account the typical long lead times involved in convincing a corporation to adopt any product, Giga would have expected Microsoft to have built a foundation of XP advantages for the corporate market some time ago. The fact that it still has not, supports Giga's belief that many corporate IT shops are assuming this product is more appropriate for gamers and other home users rather than corporate use. Strangely enough, the professional version of the product is not only appropriate for corporate use, but a significant improvement over preceding versions of Windows.

While XP offers a number of improvements in terms of easier setup, faster boot-up times and performance, improved security, migration capability and remote management features, the three aspects of this product that should make it compelling for IT buyers are:

  • It works better on current-generation hardware than any other Microsoft operating system.

  • It will remain supported by Microsoft until 2005. (Windows 2000 moves into a reduced support roll in 2003).

  • It is a minor rather than a major OS revision - hence should not suffer from the number of bugs which inevitably affect major releases.

Based on Giga's experience, the cost benefit of XP over NT and 9x products provide even more rapid cost recovery than Windows 2000 did. Giga will not know this for sure until the numbers come back from the early-deployment companies next year, but the migration utilities alone should account for a significant portion of that accelerated cost recovery.

Because of the significant amount of hardware change going on during the next 18 months, one feature of Windows XP may become critical to companies undertaking large or ongoing hardware deployments. Unlike previous versions of Windows, which generally required driver support from the hardware suppliers, as part of the installation process, Windows XP checks on the network for updated drivers. This process provides one more check to make sure the hardware and related drivers are correct and provides a much better software upgrade experience.

XP improves Windows' support for imaging, a standard way to install the OS rapidly across a network. It appears to handle massive changes in hardware much better than 2000 did; Windows 9x products are not even in the same league. Giga has taken hard drives out of one AMD-based machine and in parallel put them in a new P4 machine, and with a couple of reboots (and the use of the Windows and Office XP disks for authentication) had the new machines up and running with full functionality in a matter of minutes. This suggests that a single OS image should cover a vastly wider array of hardware, simplifying both image management and support requirements.

Giga remain very impressed with this offering and cannot explain why Microsoft has chosen not to market it more effectively to an IT audience that would surely find it a compelling reason to upgrade.


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