ANALYSIS: Media Watch - Windows XP - new features, oldanticompetitive attitude?

To the sounds of Madonna's Ray of Light, Microsoft recently kicked

off its $200 million marketing campaign to hype the launch of

Windows XP, which is being described as the best operating system since

Windows 95.



The Washington Post (October 25) noted that, together with partner

firms, PC manufacturers, and retail outlets also joining in the

promotion, the marketing push "could cost a combined $1

billion."



Analysis of early reviews suggests that Microsoft is effectively driving

home the XP's two primary features. First, XP was acknowledged for

delivering on its promise of being "the sturdiest Microsoft system in

years" (US News & World Report, October 29), resulting in less downtime

while your computer freezes up. The industry buzz is that the XP will

make the infamous "Blue Screen of Death" a thing of the past. What's not

to like about that?



Second, XP was described as notable for its support of a broad range of

digital media - digital photos, movie editing, CD burning, etc. The

Baltimore Sun (October 22) observed, "This is a sign that Microsoft is

serious about turning your computer into a multimedia playpen." That

sounds good, too.



Interestingly, The Washington Post (October 25) also noted that,

following September 11, Microsoft changed its marketing focus from quick

and easy convenience of new multimedia features to increased

stability.



But there were three key criticisms of XP. Ed Black, president of the

Computer and Communications Industry Association, told The Boston Globe

(October 25), "Our problem is not with the operating system itself; it's

with all the non-operating system features that are tied into it."

Others agreed. Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America,

admitted that XP "is perhaps Microsoft's best operating system so far,"

but then voiced his concern: "Anyone who has closely looked at XP

concludes that it was designed by Microsoft assuming that it would win

the (antitrust) case" (St. Petersburg Times, October 22).



The Christian Science Monitor (October 25) wrote, "Almost everything

about XP ... replicates the monopolistic practices Microsoft has been

found guilty of. It screams that Microsoft has learned little from its

recent convictions on eight counts of violating antitrust law." In

backing up these allegations, critics cited the various messaging, audio

and video programs built into the XP operating system that competitors

offer as a stand-alone product.



Reviews also didn't like Microsoft's demand that all users register

their copy of XP in order to activate it. Coverage indicated that

Microsoft was invoking software piracy as the reason behind the

registration process, but gave more attention to consumers' privacy

concerns. The final worrisome area was Microsoft's aggressive promotion

of its Passport service that would allow you to have a single log-in

user ID and password for various websites (but only those sites that pay

Microsoft for the service). "I resent the badgering," wrote a Business

Week columnist (October 22), who was annoyed at the pop-up window that

constantly asked for his personal information so he could use

Passport.



Overall, XP is widely seen as a great improvement over previous Windows

editions, not just another upgrade with minor tweaks. But at the same

time, it wasn't viewed in the same revolutionary light as Windows

95.



Most reviews concluded there was no need for the average consumer to

rush out and buy XP immediately.



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com.



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