Windows XP Reloaded: The Mystery Deepens

According to Microsoft execs, "Windows XP Reloaded" is a project to provide an interim "something" to fill the gap between Windows XP and Longhorn.

Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president of platforms, in the manner of casual dinner conversation heard around the world, bypassed the companys normal protocol for product announcements on Thursday and revealed that there will be a new "Kit" from Microsoft, currently code-named Windows XP "Reloaded."

Officials at Microsoft are now scrambling to understand what the word "kit" means.

Jim, who is senior enough in the company to survive this ad-hoc product introduction, is evidently not taking calls. Microsofts PR firm Waggener Edstrom wishes it had that choice, as it fields a firestorm of press calls that they werent prepared to handle.

Heres what I know: Windows XP Reloaded is a project to provide an interim "something" to fill the gap between Windows XP and Longhorn.

Apparently, the decision as to what this something is, an upgrade kit or a new Windows operating system, has not yet been made. Or if it has, Allchin neglected to let Microsofts marketing department in on the secret. Whats inside is also a mystery, although it will likely include SP 2 and multimedia-type upgrades.

Since these components would likely be downloadable from the Windows Update site, this "kit" will probably mostly target new hardware. Its also designed to incent individuals and companies to actually refresh that hardware —and thus upgrade their OS.

So why do it now?

The answer probably comes from the realization that—with delays in Longhorn—the corporate "Software Assurance" program was delivering marginal value. And that must be a worry.

Microsofts Software Assurance program is purchased by large corporations to protect against interim releases that they might want, even though they hope these releases wont actually happen. Its kind of like life insurance where you bet the insurance company that you will die, they bet you will live, and you hope they win.

/zimages/1/28571.gifMicrosoft last summer made changes to its Software Assurance plan to make it more palatable to customers. Click here to read more about the enhancements.

In the end, while the announcement of Windows XP Reloaded may have less than pretty, the result could be good thing for both the industry and buyers—even if it merely increases adoption of the security enhancements coming in SP2 this summer.

Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.

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