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The Windows XP launch: Sydney, Australia.

, 24 Oct 2001
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What better place to attend the launch of Microsoft's latest Operating System.

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.

The official, 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 will.

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.

The point 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.

Photo: Larry Rivera (http://goaustralia.about.com/cs/sydneynsw/)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.

If 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 taking 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 that license.

In 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 presented with.

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.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Chris Maunder
Founder CodeProject
Canada Canada
Chris is the Co-founder, Administrator, Architect, Chief Editor and Shameless Hack who wrote and runs The Code Project. He's been programming since 1988 while pretending to be, in various guises, an astrophysicist, mathematician, physicist, hydrologist, geomorphologist, defence intelligence researcher and then, when all that got a bit rough on the nerves, a web developer. He is a Microsoft Visual C++ MVP both globally and for Canada locally.
 
His programming experience includes C/C++, C#, SQL, MFC, ASP, ASP.NET, and far, far too much FORTRAN. He has worked on PocketPCs, AIX mainframes, Sun workstations, and a CRAY YMP C90 behemoth but finds notebooks take up less desk space.
 
He dodges, he weaves, and he never gets enough sleep. He is kind to small animals.
 
Chris was born and bred in Australia but splits his time between Toronto and Melbourne, depending on the weather. For relaxation he is into road cycling, snowboarding, rock climbing, and storm chasing.
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Comments and Discussions

 
Generalambassadors PinsussAnonymous24-Mar-04 3:01 
GeneralHmmm... PinmemberGreven29-Oct-01 3:34 
Why doesn't anyone truely talk about what's wrong with FP? (That's Fisher Price for those of you wondering) First of all, how many people are talking about it's open raw sockets? We are giving raw sockets to the the end users. For those of you who have never worked on a helpdesk, that's a *very* *VERY* bad idea. We are going to have a butt load of DOS attack servers on cable modems and dsl soon because Johnny didn't know that the little Brittney Spears animation was infected with a virus. Sounds dumb, but it'll happen, just wait. Then with the activation. I understand that they have to protect their intellectual property and such, but they now the right to revoke my license as they see fit. Sure, they don't word it like that, but I don't trust them... (maybe I'm a bit to anti-microsoft on that one, so sue me.) And one of the funniest things I've found. Run winver some time. Win2K = 5.0 WinFP = 5.1. You expect me to pay $100 for a .1 version upgrade? I don't think so! Back in the day of 3.1, the .1 upgrade cost $40. Remember back then? So why did the value of a one tenth of a version upgrade just move up two and half times it's value? Hmm... Things to think about. I could talk more, but I have to get to work Poke tongue | ;-P
 
Programming in binary is as easy as 01 10 11.
GeneralA differing opinion PinmemberAndrewGJ29-Oct-01 1:21 
GeneralRe: A differing opinion PinmemberPortatofe2-Oct-08 8:35 
GeneralLaunch date of server... PinmemberMike Nordell27-Oct-01 9:24 
GeneralRe: Launch date of server... PinmemberChris Maunder28-Oct-01 18:33 
GeneralPositively surprised... PinmemberMike Nordell27-Oct-01 9:20 
GeneralRe: Positively surprised... PinmemberChris Maunder28-Oct-01 18:30 
GeneralAfter all: Throw away Win95 PinmemberDaniel Lohmann26-Oct-01 6:52 
GeneralRe: After all: Throw away Win95 PinmemberMichael P Butler26-Oct-01 7:02 
GeneralRe: After all: Throw away Win95 PinmemberDaniel Lohmann26-Oct-01 8:56 
QuestionTaking the piss? PinmemberMichael Dunn25-Oct-01 19:11 
GeneralNice article PinmemberAndrew Peace25-Oct-01 13:15 
General17% more useable PinmemberDavid Cunningham25-Oct-01 4:28 
GeneralRe: 17% more useable PinmemberMichael Martin25-Oct-01 5:24 
GeneralRe: 17% more useable PinmemberChristian Graus25-Oct-01 14:54 
GeneralOS X Marketing PinmemberMichael Martin25-Oct-01 3:44 
GeneralRe: OS X Marketing PinmemberChris Maunder25-Oct-01 4:08 
GeneralRe: OS X Marketing PinmemberMichael Martin25-Oct-01 5:22 

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