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New OS XPected To Be Biggest Seller Ever

IDC predicts sales of Windows XP to top any version of Windows.

It was a bold claim to make. When Microsoft announced a firm release date of Oct. 25 for Windows XP, the press release quoted IDC analyst Al Gillen as predicting historic sales for the latest desktop OS.

"IDC expects that Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional will see more new license shipments by the end of 2002 than any other new Microsoft operating system has had in its first full year of availability. This will make it the fastest-adopted version of Windows to date," Gillen said.

While Gillen says the statements are true, it's also true that it's not as earth shattering an event as Redmond would have you believe. IDC does expect XP sales to be chart-toppers, but it's due as much to the larger market now as it is to XP's superiority over the various flavors of Windows 9x.

"The volume of systems being shipped today is so much higher than in those days," Gillen said. "So even if XP isn't a rip-roaring success, it will still sell huge."

In 1996, according to IDC's research, sales of Windows 95 were just less than 20 million units. Combined with Windows 3.1, still the reigning sales champ in those days, 53 million copies of Windows shipped. In 2000, sales of Windows 9x and Millennium Edition topped 70 million units, and the market may expand to 90 million units, according to Gillen.

In the business market, IDC expects XP Professional to quickly overtake Win2K Professional sales, "over a two- to three- year period," Gillen said. That's despite his contention that XP's a relatively minor upgrade from Win2K Professional.

"The GUI's different, but once you play with it, it's Windows 2000 all the way through."

On the home front, Gillen expects XP to have a big impact. "XP Home Edition will be pushed out the (OEM) channel" in big numbers, he said. One main reason is that since it's based on the 2000 code base, it'll be much more stable than 9x and require less support staff for manufacturers.

On the other hand, IDC expects the consumer upgrade market for XP to be dismal. Gillen says that due to various compatibility and BIOS problems, "a machine built in 1998, that's still powerful, isn't going to be usable for XP. There's a huge chunk of machines that won't be able to run XP effectively or not at all."

As of deadline, Microsoft still hasn't set a release date for Windows 2002 Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter Server, but it's likely to be early next year.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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