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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Consumers subdued over XP launch
Customer at an internet cafe
Not everyone is excited over Microsoft's latest offering
David Schepp

While computer experts and Microsoft aficionados eagerly await the next version of the Windows operating system (OS), consumers are less enthusiastic over the prospects of yet another software programme.

Customer at a Manhattan internet cafe
"I don't buy into the hype," says Matt Petrovic
Few see the need to spend up to $200 for Windows XP, the software behemoth's latest version of its operating system that once and for all ditches its primitive MS-DOS roots

They wonder if the upgrade will really improve functionality or productivity.

Other consumers, eager to take advantage of the XP's new features, are holding off, waiting to purchase a new, faster computer with Microsoft's latest OS already installed.

Lukewarm reception

Opinions varied at a large internet café in New York's Times Square neighbourhood, but few computer users felt the need to run out and line up to buy the latest version of Windows on launch day - 25 October.

Customer at a Manhattan internet cafe
Javier Vergara says software changes don't amount to much...
Matt Petrovic, who does not own a computer, says he has not paid attention to the hype surrounding the introduction of XP.

"I like to go out and look at it for myself," Mr Petrovic says. "There are too many other influences out there that can force you to buy something that you totally don't believe in."

Wanda White, a self-described friend of Microsoft, was not aware that Microsoft was releasing a new version of its ubiquitous software. Yet she relies on her computer more than ever, now unemployed and in the midst of a job search.

"This is my livelihood," Ms White says, referring to her use of computers. "I have to keep up with the latest software. I don't mind spending extra money because I'm going to profit from it."

New and different

Ms White believes the upgrades are worth it. "Every time they come up with something new and different, it's always better than the previous [version]," she says.

Customer at a Manhattan internet cafe
... while Wanda White wants to stay on top of all the changes.
On the other side of the fence is Javier Vergara, who says he is an Office expert, referring to Microsoft's suite of business applications.

Mr Vergara says he will not be lining up to buy Windows XP as he is quite content with the performance of his current software applications.

"They change the software so often it doesn't affect anything that I do," he says. Mr Vergara's own computer is equipped with Windows '98, the consumer version of the Windows operating system launched three years ago.

"I don't care to buy the new one, the changes aren't very insignificant," he says, adding that consumers need to find the software that meets their needs - not the latest offering.

Taking second place

The biggest advantage for consumers in Windows XP is one they will never see, says David Coursey, columnist for AnchorDesk, an e-mail newsletter about computers.

It is much more reliable and does not crash as often as previous editions. "If a computer just sits there and works," Mr Coursey says, "it's just doing what it's supposed to."

The attacks of 11 September and general economic slowing has kept consumer enthusiasm for new product launches at bay and also affected how Microsoft launched XP.

Preoccupations over anthrax scares and job losses mean much hyped product launches take a second seat with today's consumers.

Eerie commercials

Says AnchorDesk's Coursey, "We've had our minds on completely other things that make the introduction of a new PC-operating system seem damn near insignificant."

Microsoft had to revamp television adverts touting XP's new features, filmed prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center, which showed aeroplanes flying through high rises and people jumping from buildings.

The adverts had an eerie similarity to actual events. But even with its overhauled commercials, Microsoft has failed to excite the average American about its latest Windows offering.

"Microsoft has not really made a good case to the general public as to why they need XP," Mr Coursey says.

"This isn't as big a deal as [the launch of] Windows '95."

See also:

24 Aug 01 | Business
Microsoft ships Windows XP
13 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
XP prepares to storm desktops
09 May 01 | Business
October launch for Windows XP
14 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
To upgrade or not to upgrade
29 Aug 01 | Business
Microsoft judge speeds up hearings
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