More than just another upgrade

This week saw the release of Windows XP, which Microsoft views as its most significant release since Windows 95.

This week saw the release of Windows XP, which Microsoft views as its most significant release since Windows 95.

So far, the analyst community has been reasonably generous about the enhanced functionality the new release offers. XP promises to be a more robust, reliable and manageable operating system than the desktop has ever seen before, they tell us.

More intriguingly, XP marks Microsoft's first concerted attempt to lead its corporate user base down the road towards .net, the company's vision of a world where software is delivered as a Web-based service.

Of course, all this detail will remain academic unless users choose to upgrade - and so far there have been few signs of any clamour to do so.

A straw poll of IT managers by Computer Weekly revealed that the vast majority of UK companies are not planning to implement XP within a year of its release.

Rumblings are being heard about technology treadmills and leaving corporate upgrade cycles well alone. Much time and money has been invested in Windows 2000, and the arrival of XP is being viewed in some quarters as an upgrade too far.

But to write off XP as just another incremental upgrade is to ignore the potential that Web-based services has for revolutionising the way we do business.

The extent to which we rely on the Web increases by the day. In time, Web services will allow you to access and deliver the best applications in the most cost-effective way and, who knows, maybe even generate new revenue streams by making your own applications available over the Net.

But your ability to buy into this vision will hinge on your ability to communicate, and share developments, across corporate boundaries. Put that way, XP might just hold the key to lasting business competitiveness.

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