Look Before You Weep; Hold Off for Now on XP

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Early adopters report Microsoft's new operating system saves money. But proceed with caution.

Individual experiences with Windows XP on personal computers notwithstanding, initial signs indicate that the latest version of the Microsoft operating system could put a dent—or at least a ding—in total cost of owning and using the software. At least, that's what some early adopters are saying.

PDF DownloadOf course, there's never a guarantee that a new operating system will produce a quick return. When reviewing the increased productivity claims Microsoft makes prodigiously on its Web site, just remember how stable the company said Windows 95, 98 and ME were when they launched. For instance, Microsoft claims XP is 17% easier to use than Windows ME and 10 times more reliable than Windows 9x.

Regardless, companies would be wise to let others take the initial plunge for at least six months while XP hardens in the marketplace. Even the Microsoft spinmeisters say it's too early to broadcast hard dollar projections of how you can save or make money adopting the new OS.

It's worth noting that I'm 0 for 3 in XP Home Edition upgrade attempts. Each time the install crashed, and one attempt put my monitor into permanent sleep mode, although I have to allow for the possibility of a coincidental hardware failure. Granted, Baseline readers care more about XP Pro than XP Home, but the point remains; green operating systems always have shakedown problems.

Microsoft listed 16 companies on its Web site—including Digex and Enterasys Networks—that have made XP buying commitments, and talked about a few more such as Citigroup and Intel at the Oct. 22 launch event. A spokeswoman said more have made commitments, but declined to elaborate.

So I talked to a few, all of which are longstanding Microsoft customers and, in some cases, business partners. Several were enticed to adopt XP with free consulting, but most said they purchased XP under standard enterprise agreements and received no price breaks.

Enterasys and Digex are declaring quick XP returns. Taken at face value, their stories are compelling. Once Digex's 1,300 desktops are upgraded to XP by early next year, CIO Scott Carcillo expects annual cost of ownership to drop from $5,000 per machine to $3,200. XP chimes in with 60% of that cost reduction, and falling hardware prices account for the rest.

"I have seven support people. When the upgrade is finished, I'll need three or four," he says, crediting XP's remote assistance capability as the "big swinger."

The story is much the same at Enterasys, where worldwide IT operations director Dean Hartzog forecasts the company will recoup the $1.75 million deployment costs in six to nine months, much of it by trimming helpdesk headcount. The upgrading of the first 900 machines went smoothly enough—65% without any direct IT intervention and another 6% with only one call to the helpdesk—to prompt Enterasys to put XP on all 2,700 of the company's machines. "There were no showstoppers. And I'm still employed," he says, half-sounding like he expected he wouldn't be.

But happy endings so early in the new OS's life are in the minority. The sentiments of speaker-maker Bose, still in the process of migrating from Windows NT to Windows 2000, are probably more representative of the corporate mainstream. Bose will wait until the middle of next year before rolling out a single copy of XP.

Forty percent of Bose's desktop users are still on NT and the rest on Windows 2000, according to manager of PC strategy and services Frank Calabrese, who's not about to support three OS versions at the same time.

"Support is too expensive," he says. "And it's too expensive to skip ahead two OS generations from NT to XP. But we know we'll go to XP eventually."

Of course. But all in due time.

What are your XP plans? John Dodge is Editor-In-Chief of the Ziff Davis News Service and welcomes your comments at john_dodge@ziffdavis.com

This article was originally published on 2001-12-10
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