The Windows XP launch: Sydney, Australia
I'm back home after a whirlwind trip involving Indian food, a ferry, good
Australian wine, Bardot and a soy latte.
tax deductible reason I was up in Sydney was because Microsoft's incredibly
generous, kind hearted and hard working PR firm August One invited me to join
fellow members of the Press to attend the lavish Sydney launch of Windows XP.
Sydney was the first major Windows XP launch as October 25 slowly crawls across
the globe and the guys and girls wanted it to be the best. Enough of the groveling.
If that doesn't secure me at least a few more invites to these things nothing
After a very late night, way too much Indian food and a little wine (or
was that the other way around?) and a wake up time that even disturbed the
sparrows, I found myself at Darling Harbour onboard a ferry staring dubiously
at a champagne and pastry breakfast. We mingled, we indulged, and we admired the
view of Sydney Harbour and unanimously decided that this was a great way to
start the working day. The ferry also served as convenient transport to the main
event in Olympic Park, Homebush Bay.
After the grueling 20 minute trip
we finished the last dregs of whatever had found it's way into our cups, stowed
some emergency muffins and roused those who had succumbed to the gentle rocking
of the boat, the glorious sunshine and the comfy seats and stumbled, blinking,
inside the main hall.
|The new ambassadors for XP? |
There was glitz, there was loud pumping music, and there were bright
colourful strobe lights. There was also fairy floss. All in all a typical
Microsoft launch. It was setup like an evening celebrity talkback show. There
was the host (in this case Rove Mc Manus) and the guest - various Microsoft PMs,
some famous people who had heard of XP, some typical Aussie families who's life
had been made simpler by XP, a fashion designer (Peter Morrissy), a fashion
parade, some stuntmen repelling from the roof and Bardot.
'What does a teenage girly band have to do with XP?' was the first question that
sprang to the minds of some of people there. 'Shuttup I'm watching' was the
reply from the rest.
It was a launch designed to impress on you that XP is
exciting, it's hip and groovy, and, according to Bill Gates himself, cool. An OS
is to most people a fairly boring thing, and hearing some PMs (who didn't strike
me as exactly hip and groovy and cool themselves - though I may be wrong) talk
about Remote Assistance, System Restore, or (and I'm not making this up) that
452 babies were born during the project does not imbue excitement. Guys jumping
from a roof and 4 very attractive young ladies does. It's marketing, it's what
Microsoft is good at. However, if I hear the word 'experience' used one more
time I will barf.
So what's so good about XP? At first glance, and if you
aren't paying attention, it's simply Windows 2000 with video editing, CD-RW
drivers and skins. Market research must have told them that everyone - from Ma
and Pop to Granddad and the nieces - want to be able to make their own movies,
download pics from their digital camera, and rip and cut their own CDs while
video conferencing with their friends. A lot of emphasis is being placed
on the multimedia aspects of XP and to many this may be the only thing apart
from enhanced reliability that sets it apart from Windows 98 or Me.
is that XP is a major upgrade for the 9X crowd because it finally means the end
of DOS. For those who have already moved to Windows 2000 it means even more
stability with the fun stuff and driver support that Windows Me came with. DLL
hell is reduced by allowing multiple versions of DLLs to run side by side.
System restore, Windows File Protection and Windows Update will improve
reliability and robustness. An inbuilt firewall (although admittedly with only
and ON or OFF switch), file encryption and attention to buffer overrun vulnerabilities will help
make it more secure and resilient.
Deployment is the big thing for large corporations.
Out of the box it supports 12,000 devices, unattended setup has more options and
increased security, and with Windows Update running silently in the background
hotfixes and patches will be installed automatically. Remote Assist is way cool.
Instead of a user trying to describe a problem to the help desk, the help desk
can remotely take control, view the problem, and make any changes if
necessary. Essentially Terminal Services on steroids. Many companies are
moving to XP simply because of the deployment and management improvements.
you've not experienced the interview technique of Rove McManus (which 97.2% of
you most likely haven't) then it's hard to describe exactly how he went about
the hosting of the event. He spent the entire time basically
the piss out of the entire Microsoft team. It was hilarious watching someone
who knew absolutely nothing about computers host such a show. And the thing is,
it worked. Unfortunately they also used the 'real life testimonial' method where
they have a typical suburban family evangelizing about how much of a difference
XP made. There was also the comment that XP was 17% more 'useable'. I was half expecting them to follow this up with 'in blind tests
carried out, 9 out of 10 shoppers said they preferred Windows XP to other
leading brand Operating Systems.'
In the Q&A session there was the usual
grilling of the Microsoft guys but these events do tend to degrade into ego wars
between the journalists and there was a distinct lack of informed questioning.
Most depressing was the realization that even the media doesn't understand
product activation, with some asking how many times you can activate your copy
before it shuts down, and another asking how many times you can activate before
Microsoft informs the police. It was ridiculous. So for the record: you can
activate can be done using a toll-free number 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. You
can activate as many times as you want. You can change around 6 items of
hardware before activation is needed. Once 120 days is up the 'changed hardware
items' count is reset to zero. If you activate the product excessively in too
short a time period, or Microsoft receives activation requests for the same license
from numerous hardware configurations then they will try and contact you and
'educate' you on what a license actually means, and if that fails, and they are
convinced you are pirating then they simply won't reissue activation keys for
the end we were all given showbags, which was great. An XP
hat, user guide, water bottle, data sheets, slides of the presenters (yes,
actual mounted slides in case your next slide show needs some spice), and the
item itself: a copy of XP. Unfortunately I've already discovered a QA issue
which I'm not sure can be fixed in this release: the water bottle has an asymmetrical
groove so difficult to slide into a water bottle cage on your
typical mountain or road bike unless you line it up properly. Press events aren't all champagne and smoked
salmon - we work hard to ensure that we thoroughly scrutinize everything we are
In the end I'm not sure if the average user is going to rush out and buy XP.
It's definitely far superior to Win9X, and is nicer than 2000, but I'm not sure
if it's enough to justify the $AUD462 (for Home) or $AUD675 (for professional)
pricetag. There is also a lot of misunderstanding about product activation, a
lot of emphasis on multimedia and glitz and not enough on value for money. For
the current NT Server and Windows 2000 Server users we have to wait. Windows
.NET Server (the server versions of XP) won't be out till second quarter 2000.
Special thanks to Derek Jenkins for the use of his images.