Windows XP is cool, says Bill

Microsoft boldly launched its latest operating system at a time when software and hardware sales are down.

In what it touts as the biggest launch in the company's history, Microsoft officials proclaimed the benefits of both the professional and home versions of the Windows XP operating system.

Australia was the first country to host a launch of the new product and events will continue over the next 24 hours. The main launch will commence early tomorrow in New York City with Bill Gates in attendance.

In a pre-recorded address to the Sydney audience, Gates, said Windows XP was "cool" and also crucial for the industry.

But the focus was definitely on the consumer market. Paul Houghton, managing director of Microsoft Australia said, "XP will unlock the digital world for your PC."

In the current market downturn, Microsoft is banking on the popularity of devices such as digital cameras and videos to motivate home PC owners to upgrade by bundling in a media player and access to online photo-printing services.

Gerry Harvey, Harvey Norman kingpin, made headlines last week when he said the new OS won't make a difference to users.

Today Microsoft management rejected Harvey's comments and said the vendor has received widespread support from the Harvey Norman retail chain.

"We do acknowledge that the market is different today than it has been in the 90s," Houghton said in a press conference later. "There were many economies that were weak even prior to the tragic events of September 11 and those events have acted as an accelerator to further weaken a lot of the economies around the world."

"The marketplace in Australia is not going to be immune from the impact of some of those events," he said.

"In terms of technology, we believe that we have a very strong product with Windows XP and that people will go out and evaluate it on its on merits."

One of the merits is the promise that XP product won't crash.

XP also does not have anti virus software. However, some antivirus software may need revising.

"It's something that is well covered in the market," Rowarth said. "We have strong relationships with anti-virus vendors in the market, for example Symantec released a new software that runs on XP."

Roworth said today marks the end of an era with the death of DOS. XP is on a different code base and, according to Roworth, sets a new standard.

Certainly the day marks a turning point in the Microsoft's 26 year long history, with the shift in focus to selling services over the Internet in response to customer demand.

Houghton said services only accounted for two per cent of revenue and it wasn't an area that it would move into as an attempt to increase its profitability. Software is still the money-spinner, but Microsoft are committed to services due to customer demand, particularly from the enterprise space.

"Services are for the enterprises to work with the technology, but they are not a significant growth area for us."

"Services are profitable, but its not an intentional profit centre and not a growth strategy for profit," Houghton said.

"In the long term we will continue to drive forward and innovate by listening to our customers and partners. Customers are a critical success factor."

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