Thought for the DayIf it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Chairing a Microsoft Forums seminar on...

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Chairing a Microsoft Forums seminar on Windows XP recently, I took a hard look at the future - or at least what Microsoft tells us the future will be - with Longhorn and Palladium. The other speakers looked at XP's features and asked whether it was worth having or not.

What I found really interesting was that the audience was split roughly 60/40 between Windows 2000 and Windows NT, with only a handful of Windows XP users.

On a day that saw the release of the first service pack for XP (SP1), it was evident that a great many businesses were reluctant to give up Windows NT, even though they could see that Microsoft had given up on them or, at least, supporting them, as they persisted with such Luddite behaviour.

But can you blame them? I couldn't. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a pretty reasonable position to take where operating systems are concerned, and why spend more money upgrading when there's yet another Microsoft operating system lurking just over the horizon?

That was really the position these very sensible people were taking. Their NT installations worked and they had finally started the long slow haul on to Windows 2000 when Windows XP appeared. Now, just as they have come to terms with the idea that its barely-out-the-box predecessor Windows 2000 is as dead as Monty Python's proverbial parrot, people like me start talking about the implications of XP's successor, Longhorn - due sometime after 2004.

You see, 2004 is roughly about the time that the larger companies expected to have completed their Windows NT to Windows 2000 migration or, indeed, Windows 2000 to Windows XP. The question on everyone's minds was "What's the most cost-effective and sensible solution - staying put or upgrading now?"

My answer is simple. Forget Windows 2000 and don't worry about the future just yet, because if it's owned by Microsoft it will be expensive regardless of what you choose to do today.

As for Windows NT, if it isn't already dead, then it's moribund and there's little or no point staying with it any longer. Windows 2000 might offer a couple more years of support but ultimately it's a dead end, and there's little or no point in upgrading twice - there are too many disadvantages.

While there's every reason to suspect that Microsoft appears to be reinventing history and is following OS/2's "protected mode" example with the Palladium/Longhorn combination beyond 2004, Windows XP, with its first service pack now with us, offers a stable, flexible and, arguably, more secure (don't laugh) platform than its predecessors. So this is really where you should be going and let the future worry about itself.

Alternatively, you could embrace Linux fundamentalism, throw out Windows completely, save your company millions in licence fees and choose StarOffice.

But that's another story involving open-toed sandals and a beard, and an argument that most Windows NT and Windows 2000 users simply aren't ready for yet.

What is your view?
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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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