Microsoft executives shuttle XP via air

In a 15-minute ceremony involving Bill Gates, Jim Allchin, a half-dozen OEMs, and two helicopters, Microsoft released Windows XP to manufacturers, literally handing the gold code over to its hardware partners here at the company's campus on Friday morning.

Microsoft's executives said that the company is on track to ship XP worldwide on Oct. 25.

Allchin, vice president at Microsoft, cheered the new operating system, saying it was the finest Microsoft has shipped. "It's not just about the new technology -- it's about the way we surfaced it," he said.

He went on to tout some of XP's features, such as Internet Web services, entertainment enhancements, and 12,000 applications that will run on the OS.

Allchin turned to Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, and said the only thing left was for him to sign off on it, to which Gates replied, "OK."

After reiterating what Allchin said about the features and mentioning real-time communications capabilities, Gates declared the code complete.

"This build is it. I'm ready to sign off. Give me the Tablet and I'll do my job," said Gates, signing off on XP on a TabletPC, a computing device that Microsoft has been touting as one of the next generation of devices.

With that, Gates and Allchin held up CD's like bowling trophies.

Next came the ceremonial handing over of the code, in metal briefcases branded with the Windows XP logo. OEMs, not surprisingly, were enthusiastic. "There is something magic in this suitcase. We are [bringing] the PC industry back to mojo," said one of the OEMs.

Dell's representative said, "We're excited to get back XP back to Austin and start [loading] it for customers."

Gates handed the gold code over to six OEMs: Dell Computer Corp., Gateway Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., and Sony Corp..

Allchin took it from there. "Have you noticed a couple helicopters here?" he asked the small crowd. "They're off to start [working] on the new CDs."

With that, the OEMs piled into two helicopters and with briefcases in hand, flew away -- or at least circled Microsoft's campus in the air.

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