The second beta of Windows XP arrives this week clothed in its spacey, new Luna user interface. In tests of an early release of this beta of Windows XP Professional, eWeek Labs found Microsoft Corp.s latest Windows client to be a solid performer, with feature enhancements that will appeal to corporate users, such as remote desktop access and improved application and device compatibility.
However, Windows XP is too close a cousin to Windows 2000 for sites that have deployed or are currently deploying that operating system to lose sleep over an XP upgrade.
For the significant number of companies running Windows 9x, Windows XP will mark a good time to make a switch—albeit one that will require careful planning as they move from the 9x to the NT code base. Although some sites may encounter legacy driver compatibility issues when moving to XP, we believe that XPs management and stability edge over Windows 9x makes the move a smart one.
Windows XP, which is expected to ship by the end of the year, will be available in a Professional and a Home Edition. Windows XP Home Edition is intended for consumers currently running Windows 98 or Windows ME and lacks some of the features of the Professional edition, such as the encrypting file system, group policy management, remote desktop access and support for dual processors.
Machines running Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0 or 2000 will be able to upgrade directly to XP. The RAM and processor requirements of Windows XP are virtually the same as those for Windows 2000.
Based on our tests, we recommend a minimum of 128MB of RAM and a processor clock speed of 400MHz or faster.
New to Windows XP and available only in the Professional edition is remote desktop access—using Windows Terminal Server technology, the remote desktop feature enables users to connect to a remote Windows XP machine from another XP box or from a machine running a Windows Terminal Server client.
New in Beta 2 is Windows XPs redesigned user interface, called Luna. The Luna interface shows flatter application windows, a curvy blue task bar and a bloated green start button.
In addition to the somewhat garish default color scheme, the Luna interface is filled with usability niceties for uninitiated users. Control panel icons and start menu programs in the new interface are reconfigured to be easier to uncover, and a Microsoft Office Assistant-type helper appears while users conduct file searches. Fortunately, we were able to switch back to the Windows 2000 interface from the Display Properties menu, and administrators may deploy Windows XP with the Windows 2000 interface as the default.
Windows XP will enjoy wider application compatibility than does Windows 2000, allowing users to run a wider variety of applications, including many that previously would run only on Windows 9x.
An addition from Windows ME is the System Restore feature, which can return Windows to an earlier stable state in the wake of disruptive software or driver installations. In tests, Windows XP set an automatic restore point each time that we installed a new driver.
Also added after appearing first in Windows ME is a native utility for working with compressed ZIP files.