Setting the Table for Windows XP

New OSs just keep on coming. Now that Windows 2000 has settled in as the OS du jour in the corporate world, Microsoft has started cranking up the volume for Windows XP. To confuse matters, Office XP is garnering widespread attention as well. IT management is looking at another upgrade decision--but just how far has the Win2K upgrade progressed?

An exclusive analysis of data supplied by reveals that by January 2002, many early Win2K upgrades will remain uncompleted. Moreover, Windows must find its place in an extremely heterogeneous computing environment.

Graph 1 shows the anticipated January 2002 average share of several desktop OSs for companies that adopted Win2K early compared to those that followed later. Early adopters are defined as those companies that began the upgrade process in earnest before January 1, 2001. Late adopters are defined as those companies who either chose not to upgrade to Win2K or delayed their upgrade process until after January 1, 2001.

The numbers reveal that even companies that didn't eagerly embrace Win2K anticipate that the OS will dominate the desktops in their organizations by January 2002. By then, these late adopters won't be that far behind their more nimble competitors.

This data suggests that decommissioning other Windows desktops or aggressively building out the desktop infrastructure fueled Win2K's desktop success. Among the early adopters, Win2K desktop dominance occurred at the expense of Windows NT, Windows 9x, and Windows 3.x.

Graph 2 shows the anticipated January 2002 average share of various servers for companies that adopted Win2K early compared to those that embraced the new OS more slowly. Once again, the data suggests that the Win2K deployments of late-starting companies will soon be catching up to those of their competitors. In the server space, however, Win2K growth isn't occurring primarily at the expense of Windows NT. Instead, it has snatched away share from Unix, Linux, Netware, and AS/400. Market research figures consistently have shown that Win2K is being widely accepted in the server arena. These numbers support that observation.

Graph 3 shows the same data for laptop computers. The data resembles the server-area data. Win2K has drawn share from NT, but it is also growing at the expense of several other platforms, including UNIX, Macintosh, and Linux.

As XP edges closer to its release date, we can make several observations. First, in the 1990s, a unified OS based on 32-bit code and suited to both the corporate and consumer environments was touted as the Holy Grail, yet we hear surprisingly little fanfare upon achieving it. Instead, talk has focused on the typical snafus that plague every Microsoft OS rollout: missed shipping dates, backward-compatibility problems, and Microsoft's unfailing callousness to customers' needs.

In XP, Microsoft has further bungled customer relations with a new Big-Brother approach: Windows Product Activation (WPA). Readers have reported to Research UPDATE that XP must be reactivated if, in Microsoft's view, the hardware identity of a computer changes too much or too often. As Graph 4 shows, this requirement alone could dissuade buyers from upgrading to XP.

Early Win2K adopters are well along in the upgrade process, and late adopters are catching up. Nevertheless, Microsoft has apparently trained its customers to shy away from the cutting edge. The risk of moving to a new Microsoft OS, in the eyes of many IT professionals, remains greater than the reward.

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