Microsoft pushes ahead with Windows XP

July 29, 2001



Microsoft's goal of releasing its new Windows XP operating system in October appears to be on track. The company released Windows XP Release Candidate 2, the final testing version, on July 28.

The operating system is already generating controversy from privacy groups, and from those concerned about Microsoft's monopolistic business practices.

Look for lots of publicity when Windows XP is released Oct. 25. Microsoft plans to spend $200 million on advertising during the first four months after the operating system is released.

The possibility of legal action aimed at stalling Windows XP's release makes it important for Microsoft to get its software out on time. As one analyst noted, "Once the genie is out of the bottle, it's pretty tough to get an injunction to put it back in."

PC makers are hopeful Windows XP will boost PC sales, which have fallen off dramatically -- a trend that isn't anticipated to change anytime soon.

PC users interested in trying the new Windows operating system can sign up at the Microsoft Web site.

A CD of Windows XP RC1 (released July 6) can be purchased online for $19.95, or downloaded for $9.95. The latest release, Windows XP RC2, is available only for download for $9.95.

If you decide to download the software, be prepared to wait -- the site warns that the download time is five hours if you have DSL-speed Internet access.

Windows XP will be available in two versions: Home and Professional. The Professional version will have features better suited to a networked office environment. It also supports computers with more than one microprocessor chip.

Microsoft hasn't released the retail prices for Windows XP.

Windows XP will require a PC with 233-MHz minimum required; 128 MB of RAM or higher; 1.5 GB of available hard disk space; Super VGA (800 X 600) or higher resolution video adapter and monitor; and a CD-ROM or DVD drive.

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FILE WATCH. A number of smaller file-swapping services have seen sudden growth as former users of Napster have left that service to find alternative sources for music files.

But while Napster's focus was on music files, other file-swapping service users are flocking to allow the trading of all kinds of files. These services can give teens and children easy access to pornographic material, including images and video files.

While porn Web sites usually require a credit card for access to their material, file-swapping sites are free and have few parental controls on content.

The Israel-based iMesh service recently upgraded its software to allow password protection of options giving parents control over the content. The software can be set to block all image or video files, and parents can manually insert a list of keywords for files to block (this can include music as well as images or video files).

Another service, Music City Morpheus, requires users to be over age 13, but has no parental controls available for the types of files that can be downloaded.

Parents should be aware of the services their kids are using, particularly if they were fans of free MP3 music files and Napster.

Unlike Napster, many of these alternative file-swapping services are decentralized -- meaning they lack a central computer server -- which makes shutting down such a service difficult.

PAY TO PLAY. After months of legal wrangling over copyrighted music files, Napster and some of its newest competitors appear ready to launch their fee-based music services.

MusicNet is a consortium that includes AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann AG, EMI, RealNetworks and Zomba Recording Corp.

Content is king on the Internet, and the same goes for music. MusicNet's deal with Zomba gives it access to lucrative teen artists such as Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and 'N SYNC.

Pressplay acquired in May, and is planning to use its technology for its own music subscription service.

Both MusicNet and Pressplay will launch their services with two forms of music -- streaming and downloadable. Both also plan to add video content as well.

Will music fans -- accustomed to free music -- pay for the right to sample music?

There won't be as much music available at the subscriptions sites as there once was with Napster, and how much money users will pay remains an unanswered question.

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