So wait - why should we care?
Windows XP is being touted as the most significant Windows upgrade since '95. It is said to be the final realization of Microsoft's consumer-centric NT vision and it is getting more press coverage than a Washington intern. This pending release is being heralded as a savior by some and an unmitigated disaster by others. Why all the fuss? We'll take a look at some of the hype, the hope and the paranoia in our latest editorial.
We'll Give You The Good News First
People are praising the fact that Windows XP, in all versions, finally leaves DOS behind. Like Windows 2000, there is no underlying link to anything "old school". No silly compromises for compatibility, no loading DOS functions before the rest, no ties to the old instabilities that made Windows 9x seem so fragile. Even old command line veterans have to admit, the time has really come to retire the old dog that was DOS. It served us well, but now, we can pay tribute with a final burial.
While FAT-32 is still there, the real emphasis will be on the updated NTFS file system. No more need to worry about filling in the allocation table with haphazard long-file name tweaks, instead you can move to the more robust, built from the ground up NTFS. It is more secure, more capable and much more promising than the old FAT based systems and even though the transition may be a bit daunting, the benefits far outweigh any potential hassles. With NTFS you get File System Recovery, File Compression, File Encryption, Disk Quotas, Sparse Files, Control Lists, Auditing, Distributed Link Tracking, Reparse Points, Volume Mount Points and Mounting Volumes, Individual File Access Permissions and a whole lot more. If there was ever a time to take leave of FAT, this is it.
Compatibility Mode is an interesting idea designed to help you get the most out of your older applications. It is much more sophisticated than the old DOS SETVER command. With XP, applications can be run in a protected memory area where version specific environmental adjustments are made that serve to provide older applications with the things they need. It is an updated version of something that appeared in Windows 2000, and should help ease the transition from DOS and Win 9x.
Multimedia features are greatly enhanced and give people who are jazzed about the flash and sizzle of MTV something to write home about. There is a windows movie maker application to create your own videos, expanded support for digital photography and image viewing, scanner, camera and photo printing wizards that let you get prints locally and online and much more. Music and CD buffs will be helped as well, though to what degree is still not sure. The new interface is flashy and impressive and may help novice users warm up to the software. All things considered, it will be the most multimedia friendly version of Windows yet.
Home networking and internet access are easier than ever. You have setup wizards galore for peer to peer local networking and client / server internet connectivity, a nifty built-in firewall to protect you from some of the bad guys out there in the digital realm and even some basic network bridging technology that helps bring networks of different types together. The updated IE 6 and Outlook Express 6 have some nice improvements, such as basic cookie management and the ability to use Hotmail accounts in your regular OE interface. There are even additions for network and internet gamers, a group close to all of our hearts. These features coupled with the improved multi-user support should make XP easier for families to use and enjoy.
For the stability conscious, you have device driver rollback support, remote assistance and an updated system restore, which should be more efficient and effective than the more limited version included with Windows ME. XP may be slower, but it is built to be more like a tank than a hummer, and as a result will spend more time protecting your interests than trying to impress you with a fancy interior.
These features cover most of the key 'buzz in the biz' in regards to what gets people excited about the new release, and on paper look very good. How well they are received, we will have to wait and see.