Dont Sign On The Dotted Line.

Windows XP hasn't even shipped yet, and Microsoft is already pushing you to adopt it. I'm telling you now that you must resist these messages.

Windows XP hasnt even shipped yet, and Microsoft is already pushing you to adopt it. Im telling you now that you must resist these messages.

Before you dismiss my opinions as "anti-Microsoft," please remember that I have openly recommended Windows 2000 Pro for traditional business desktops.

I cant do the same for Windows XP, the first version of Windows built on the NT code base for both the corporate and consumer markets.

My concern about XP has nothing to do with rumors about a delayed introduction. (Microsoft says XP will ship in the second half of this year.) And Im not talking about XPs current crop of bugs. Its a beta; betas have bugs. Get over it.

Rather, my primary concern is that Windows XP is much more restrictive about product activation, device drivers and application support.

Microsofts intentions are good: Product activation over an Internet or modem connection should cut down on software piracy. Blocking unsigned software from running makes it much more difficult for Windows XP to run a Melissa, an ILOVEYOU, or any future such worms that will make Outlook a Windows security hole that masquerades as an e-mail application.

Still, those "enhancements" have plenty of downsides. Product activation, already present in Office 2000, can make life very difficult for an administrator with a user who has managed to muck up his Office 2000 installation twice or more.

Now, think about all of the XP apps that require you to explain why you need a new ID every time an application goes over its legal number of installations. Imagine the challenge when all of the MS apps force you to manually apply for new installation IDs every time an application pushes up daisies and needs a reinstall.

Then theres the requirement that all software be signed with a Microsoft-approved bit of code. MS has said that will be the case with device drivers, but its unclear whether XP apps will need to be signed, too. A Micro- soft source tells me they will be.

While that certainly will cut down on viruses, I cant help but wonder if you or independent software vendors will have trouble getting that all-important signature for your program. Will you need to recompile any programs you write with a Microsoft compiler to be registered to work with XP? If your vendor has a product that competes with an MS project, will they have trouble getting a signature? What about your favorite cheap utility? Will it get a signature?

Microsofts not talking, and Im sure itll say the right things when it ships XP. But gosh, why do I feel certain that giving Microsoft absolute power over all XP apps probably doesnt spell good news for anyone in the tech business—except Microsoft?