XP takes off on windy day

TORONTO — Microsoft Canada‘s Frank Clegg was very nearly blown away by his own presentation at the XP launch in Toronto on Thursday.

Clegg was to have unravelled an XP banner from a crane more than 100 feet in the air, but gale force winds grounded the Microsoft Canada president. He said he somewhat relieved to have been spared the high-wire act during his opening speech. As it was, the city’s gusty conditions rocked the marquee tent that Microsoft had pitched as its launch venue.

With his feet on terra firma, Clegg said it’s the Windows NT/2000 kernel that will propel XP’s sales. All three editions of the operating system (professional, home and a 64-bit version for Itanium users) share the same kernel — a first for Microsoft.

“Even yesterday, you had to make a decision: Do I want the NT kernel and other associated benefits or do I want to take advantage of the benefits of the environment from the Windows 9x code base?” said Clegg. “We’re giving you the best of both worlds.”

He said the new OS strategy should open up more possibilities for developers, who can now market their Windows-based software for home and professional users. The professional edition may well make its way into more homes, acknowledged Clegg, as users are becoming more sophisticated and PC ownership grows.

Twenty-five per cent of Canadian homes own more than one PC, he remarked, and users will be able to share devices like printers, scanners and CD burners across PCs by networking them on XP.

Opportunities for the home market were prominent amongst Clegg’s observations, plus those of Microsoft’s key partners for the XP launch — Telus, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.

With the holiday season fast approaching, families will be looking to buy new PCs, said HP Canada president Paul Tsaparis. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of upside in the consumer market for things that are cool,” he said, referencing XP’s improved support for peripherals like digital cameras.

Canada’s key technology providers may be dreaming of consumer dollars in December, but a recent IDC Canada Ltd. study concludes PC shipments are way down this quarter. Shipments declined 17.5 per cent year-over-year in the third quarter — consumer branded PCs are down 26 per cent. The report cites market saturation and falling consumer confidence as potential causes for the trend.

Intel execs are betting on small and medium-sized businesses to adopt its Pentium 4 technology running XP. John Davies, general manager of e–business channels, for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp, said P4 technology is now more affordable (less than $1,000) and more small businesses will take the opportunity to upgrade.

A number of Canadian enterprises have said they will not upgrade to XP immediately, since they are still installing the 2000 OS. More likely candidates are NT users, who will notice a greater difference in performance.

The same will likely apply to Intel processors, said Doug Cooper, country manager for Intel of Canada: small business users currently on Pentium III technology may pass on P4 for now, but PII users will jump up to P4 when they upgrade. Cooper estimates sixty per cent of small to medium businesses are still running Windows 95 or 98 on low-end Pentium machines. “A lot of those will move to XP, because small business is kind of a blend between business and consumer. That requires a hardware upgrade for most of those people,” he said.

One thing that may drive the home market for Pentium technology and XP adoption in Canada is the growth in broadband usage, said Davies. He said 16 per cent of Canadian Internet users are on high-speed, double the American usage.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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