The Case for XP

Convincing the powers that be to upgrade to Microsoft’s newest OS can prove tougher than getting rid of your XFL season tickets.

I’ve got XP on my mind. Windows XP, the operating system formerly known as Whistler, is due out later this year, and the Redmond hype machine is doing its best to position an upgrade to XP/Whistler as being somewhat more essential than an oxygen supply is to a spacewalker.

Ahem. Let's look into the matter more closely. Windows XP is the Hatfield boy marrying the McCoy girl, the peanut butter mixing sublimely with the chocolate, Madonna marrying, well, anyone. Unification. That’s the idea behind Windows XP.

Since before the start of the MCP program, we’ve been installing and supporting two operating system paths: NT/2000 and DOS/Windows 3.x/9x. The paths converge somewhat with XP for personal and business desktops.

Now, in the abstract, OS convergence can’t help but be a good thing. Having 9x boxes alongside NT and Win2K systems means that a support staff has to include more skill sets and application developers need to account for two client standards when they’re coding. Let’s face it, the crash-prone 9x line isn’t as robust as NT and Win2K. So what’s not to like about Windows XP?

Uh, the cost, perhaps?

You and Auntie and Fabio and the gang in IT can “MCP” ourselves (yes, MCP is now a verb—at least in my book) all we want, but XP pretty much requires the same resources as NT and Win2K: 64 MB of RAM, a fast CPU and plenty of disk space. An extra 32MB isn’t a big hit in the pocket for your home system, but many businesses have to multiply it by a couple of thousand desktops. Businesses require (get out your notepads, kiddies), a compelling business reason other than, “It’s better, so do it.”

If you believe an XP environment will run with fewer crashes than your present environment, prepare to back up your opinion with real numbers.

An argument like “XP takes 15 seconds less to boot than 98, so your employees will have 2 million more productive seconds over a five-year period” is about as compelling as XFL season tickets. Instead, do you think you’ll have 20 percent fewer support calls once you’ve nuked the 9x systems? 10 percent? 5 percent? Those are real savings.

As to upgrading Win2K systems to XP, good luck finding that compelling business reason. My suggestion: If you plan to move your NT desktops to Win2K anyway, consider waiting for XP.

As much as this ex-supermodel and her counterparts with real photos in their columns like to take the occasional pot shot at Microsoft, it’s hard to deny that its OSes improve with age. XP is not the most important iteration of Windows since Windows 95—Win2K was far more significant. But closing the door on the 9x line, on DOS, on compatibility back to the first x86 processors is an idea whose time has come. Just make sure you can sell it with real figures, not fantasies. Unification makes business sense. Just ask Madonna.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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