Over the next weeks, you'll be hearing a lot about Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, due to hit store shelves worldwide on Oct. 25. Windows XP is the most ambitious operating system upgrade that Microsoft has released since moving from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and the company is reportedly planning the most extravagant launch for the product since the big bash given for Windows 95.
But behind the fanfare, not all the news about Windows XP is good. Lots of people are upset about some features of the new operating system.
-- Copy protection: Perhaps the most controversial new feature of Windows XP is the implementation of a new anti-copying procedure that can potentially make the use of the product aggravating.
"The copy protection will be good for Microsoft, but lots of people hate it," said Zack Nizam, vice president of City Computer in Rockville, Maryland.
Windows XP uses a new Microsoft-invented technology referred to as "activation" to ensure that its XP software will be subject to less illegal copying.
When XP is installed for the first time, a file is created on your hard drive that contains a list of the hardware in your computer. The list includes information such as the make and model of your video card, your hard disk, and your sound card, among other components.
This list amounts to a fairly unique way of identifying your computer, since every PC is a bit different. The list is scrambled mathematically, so that only XP can read it.
You will then be provided with a grace period after you install Windows XP -- a period after which you'll have to register the product, either by phone or over the Internet. If you attempt to use Windows XP after the grace period is expired, it won't work. If you loan your copy of Windows XP to a friend who tries to install it and activate it, you open yourself up to Microsoft's wrath, since the company will be able to tell, thanks to your activation of the software on your individual PC, that someone other than you is attempting to register the program.
Your license of Windows XP is good for one computer and one notebook. That's it.
Naturally, this new copy protection has a lot of people upset. One reviewer of the program at CNet.com said, "it's like frisking everyone as they leave the store to combat shoplifting. It's insulting."
Microsoft, of course, points to its loss of countless revenue as a result of methodical and casual copying of its products.
-- Incompatibilities: Every new Windows version has given users compatibility headaches.
"A lot of existing users are going to find that older software such as digital camera drivers and backup programs just don't work under Windows XP," said XP tester Christopher Schott.
Users of Lernout & Hauspie's Dragon Naturally Speaking, for example, will find that the product does not run at all under Windows XP. Adobe's PhotoShop and even Word 2000 do not fully integrate with XP's interface.
-- Privacy concerns: Windows XP includes a new Passport feature, which stores a user's name, password, and other information to enable Web sites that require such information to be accessed conveniently.
Passport will work automatically with several Microsoft-sponsored sites, including Hotmail. Microsoft hopes that other Web sites will license its technology to replace their own sign-in process. An accompanying virtual wallet service will enable one-click shopping, as well.