Big users discover small XP appetite

Windows 2000, not Windows XP, is the operating system name tripping off the tongues of IT managers despite XP's launch this Thursday.

Statistics New Zealand computing services manager Gerard Bone says the government department will primarily look at Windows 2000 when it upgrades its 1000 desktops from Windows 95 and Windows 98 in the next 12 to 18 months, but will consider XP at the same time.

The Warehouse information chief Neville Brown also says Windows XP will be considered when the group upgrades its 3800 desktops from Windows 98 in the next 12 to 24 months, though it could opt for Windows 2000.

Pizza Hut, Starbucks and KFC franchise owner Restaurant Brands runs Windows 98 and has no plans to upgrade to XP. IT manager Kerry Cross says XP doesn't offer any major advantage over previous Windows versions and his impression is that not many organisations will upgrade to it.

Inland Revenue IT manager Tony Lester says the department is upgrading its 3800 desktop PCs to Windows 2000 over the next six to nine months. It is also adding another 1000 Windows 2000 PCs.

Auckland City Council is about to start a desktop infrastructure plan review which IT manager Ian Rae says will determine whether or not the council will upgrade, what to and when.

"[XP is] potentially an interesting version change but there are no significant business drivers to upgrade." He says the council hasn't done a proper evaluation of Windows XP but pricing would be a consideration.

Meanwhile, sites such as Waitemata District Health Board and law firm Phillips Fox have recently finished deploying Windows 2000.

Telecom, which outsources desktop management to EDS, last year signed a $12.5 million, three-year licence for Windows 2000 Professional, Exchange Server 2000 and Office 2000 Professional for all its desktop computers.

Telecom information chief Peter Finch says EDS has the responsibility of maintaining Telecom at the most current level of operating system. He says there are no concrete plans or timeline to move to Windows XP although he would expect it to happen eventually.

Lotteries Commission IT manager Martin Cassidy says his organisation's approach to upgrading Microsoft software is to wait months, if not years, for it "to settle down".

"Although the new features look interesting we will never be at the front of the queue to upgrade to Microsoft products simply because of the quality of the software."

The coolness of New Zealand IT managers towards XP is reflected in a survey of their peers carried out by Computerworld in the US. The survey of 200 suggests more than half (52.5%) don't intend to migrate to the new operating system. Another 25% say they're undecided.

Migrating to Windows 2000 is the chief reason given, followed by "no need for new features" and "cost" respectively.

An analyst at Auckland-based IT market researcher IDC, Darian Bird, says home users are likely to adopt XP more quickly than businesses.

"Businesses prefer to limit the number of operating systems they implement, and will also take a wait-and-see approach to decide if it suits them."

However, he says the post-Y2K business upgrade cycle is expected to begin to kick back in late next year, and that would be when Windows XP would take off in the commercial sector.

Bird says although heavy promotion by Intel of the P4 chip and Microsoft of Windows XP will have a positive impact on the PC market, excitement levels aren't expected to reach those experienced during the release of Windows 95.

Windows XP combines features of consumer-orientated Windows ME and business-targeted Windows 2000. Although its new multimedia and interface features aim it primarily at the consumer market, there will be a professional edition in 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

Microsoft says XP has improved reliability, remote assistance (whereby an IT manager can take control of a remote user's desktop), a remote desktop feature which lets users access their familiar office desktops from any location, and manageability and security improvements.

When Windows 2000 was launched last April, Microsoft New Zealand's Windows marketing head, Jay Templeton, recommended that big organisations intending to upgrade at the time go ahead and not wait for the launch of Windows XP.

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