Windows XP will launch on October 25, amid "hundreds of millions" of dollars' worth of festivities that will dwarf the publicity blitz for Windows 95, Microsoft has announced.
Microsoft won't slip from its release date for the next-generation Windows, Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president, told a news conference Wednesday.
"There are dates in your life that you never miss," he said, comparing the launch date to a birthday or wedding anniversary.
Allchin did not provide details on how Microsoft plans to top the memorable marketing hoopla for Windows 95, which included the multimillion-dollar licensing of a Rolling Stones tune and turning the Microsoft campus into a carnival for the event, emceed by TV host Jay Leno. Outside of Redmond, Washington, Microsoft lit up the Empire State Building and put a banner on an entire edition of the Times of London. But, Allchin said, "We're going to spend double what we did on Windows 95 in the first four months."
"We have some pretty crazy ideas," he added.
Addressing upgrade headaches
Allchin did not discuss pricing for the successor to both the Windows 2000/NT and Windows 98/Me OS families, and he declined to comment on how Windows XP will be rolled out to PC manufacturers for use in new systems.
Nor did he discuss Windows XP's most controversial feature, a copy-protection scheme that could make it difficult for people to reinstall the OS on a PC after performing significant hardware upgrades.
However, Microsoft is continuing to tweak the copy protection technology to avoid irritating legitimate upgraders while preventing piracy, says Mark Croft, product manager in Microsoft's Windows division. Customers who buy the OS in bulk, either via an enterprise license or the open license program for five or more PCs, will get media and product keys that don't use the technology, which is called product activation.
In addition, Microsoft has said Windows 95 users will not be able to directly upgrade to Windows XP. The company acknowledges the upgrade might be problematic for people with older machines.
Asked how easy it will be to upgrade PCs now running earlier versions of Windows, Allchin reiterated Microsoft's position that upgrades should go smoothly for PCs purchased on or since the 1999 holiday season.
Adjacent to Xbox
Allchin took the opportunity to tout the benefits of the new OS, including greater reliability and stability and features such as the capability to troubleshoot and control one PC from another on a network, as well as new multimedia capabilities.
Asked about criticism that the new OS doesn't have very many new features, Allchin laughed. "That's the least of my concerns," he said. "It's a very, very feature-rich product."
Could an October 25 launch steal some thunder from the scheduled fall release of Microsoft's Xbox game console?
"Obviously we didn't want to launch on the same date, so we're going to stagger that," Allchin said. But retailers have said they believe the two new products would work together to bring more customers into stores, he added.
"X marks the spot for this holiday season, whether you're into game consoles or PCs," he said.
Windows XP is based on the Windows NT/2000 kernel but is touted as offering the compatibility and user-friendliness of the more consumer-oriented 95/98/Me line. The new OS will be offered in two flavors: a consumer edition, and a business edition that will provide additional features.