Glitches block some Windows XP beta downloads

After waiting patiently for their chance to try out the beta-test version of Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP operating system, some users have been unable since last week to download the software via the Internet.

According to postings on Microsoft's Windows XP user message boards, some of the approximately 51,000 people who had registered to get the beta release were having difficulties getting registration codes and other information that would allow them to access the software.

A Microsoft spokesman confirmed today that there had been problems with the beta downloads, but he said all registered beta users have now received the needed confirmation codes. Individual users paid US$9.95 each for the chance to be testers under the Windows XP beta program and were supposed to be able to get immediate access to the full-featured release that Microsoft announced last week.

The problem, according to the Microsoft spokesman, was a high demand for the electronic delivery of the beta code. Some registered users also hadn't received the passwords they needed via e-mail. "Those issues have been resolved," he said.

Microsoft used technology hosting provider Conxion Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., to provide the downloading services for the Windows XP beta release. Under the contract with Microsoft, registered beta testers were notified in batches of about 6,000 that they could download their copies of the software starting July 5, said Conxion spokeswoman Megan O'Reilly-Lewis.

"That wasn't a problem; it was just a business decision" by Microsoft, O'Reilly-Lewis said. She added that the downloading glitches weren't caused by Conxion. "We only used 25 percent of the capacity that we allocated for this," she said. "We had extra to spare."

Conxion itself didn't receive many customer inquiries about downloading problems, except from users with slow dial-up modem access, O'Reilly-Lewis said. For them, the 500MB file was frustrating to download, she said. In addition, the company received e-mail messages from testers who weren't aware that the distribution process was being done in batches.

The XP download problems came to light on the same day that Microsoft announced changes in its Windows OEM licensing policies that will give PC makers, and users, more flexibility in how they configure the operating system. Microsoft said some of the changes "will require development work and testing for Windows XP," but it added that the alterations should be completed in time for the scheduled Oct. 25 launch of the new version.

(Ashlee Vance of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.)

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