REDMOND, Wash., June 20, 2001 — For years, the challenge for PC users on the lookout for a new computer has been when to make the purchase. Buy a PC right before the launch of a new software or hardware standard and you might get stuck with a system that is a relic in a matter of months. Wait too long, and you forestall the productivity boost that often results with a new PC. Such dilemmas need not concern those awaiting the October release of Microsoft Windows XP, the latest version of the world’s most popular operating system.
Today, Microsoft kicks off the Windows XP Ready PC program. This program allows PC manufacturers — also known as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs — to erase any doubts that a PC bought this summer or fall will meet or exceed the minimum system requirements for running Windows XP when the new operating system hits stores Oct. 25.
The “Windows XP Ready” designation is a Microsoft endorsement that allows customers to feel confident they wont miss out on Windows XP if they buy a PC before October. All customers need to do is look for the Ready PC logo at retail stores.
The Windows XP Ready PC Program ensures that a PC meets or exceeds the Windows XP system requirements, that it has passed Windows Hardware Quality Lab tests for Windows 2000, and that PC manufacturers will provide any necessary drivers by the time of the launch of Windows XP.
“The Windows XP Ready program is like an insurance policy for PC customers,” said John Frederiksen, general manager at Microsoft. “They can rest assured that their new PC isnt out of date the day they buy it, and they don’t have to wait until Windows XP is released to get a new PC.”
Already, more than 100 desktop, laptop and mobile PCs have received the Windows XP Ready designation. Compaq, Dell, e-machines, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Systemax are among the computer makers taking part in the program so far.
“The PC market is going to revolve around Windows XP,” said Sean Aryai, OEM marketing manager for Systemax.
We didn’t want our customers to think they have to wait until Windows XP is available to buy a PC. We’d rather they have the assurance that the PC and components they buy now will work now and with Windows XP when it becomes available.”
Systemax was the first OEM to offer Windows XP Ready computers in April. Within a month, sales for computers with the designation increased notably. “It definitely has made a difference,” Aryai said. “And it should be increasingly vital as more of our PCs are Windows XP Ready and as the launch date for Windows XP gets closer.” Systemax expects to have all of its PC configurations ready for Windows XP by the end of June.
Compaq expects virtually its entire line of newly manufactured consumer PCs to be Windows XP Ready in time for the back-to-school season. A majority of its “line-of-business” desktop and portable PCs will also meet the requirements by around that time, said Jacob Hernandez, a software product-marketing manager for Compaq.
“We don’t want people to hear about Windows XP and think they need to wait until October to buy a new PC,” said Keith Martin, another software product marketing manager for Compaq. “Knowing the Compaq PC they want to purchase is already Windows XP Ready protects the customer’s investment. It also allows the customers to purchase when they need a PC and still be assured of a smooth upgrade when Windows XP is available.”
Meeting System Requirements and Testing Keys to Windows XP Readiness
To be considered Windows XP Ready, a new computer must have Windows 2000 Professional or Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) preinstalled, along with at least 128 megabytes of random access memory (RAM). Some computers may also need additional hardware drivers, which are available through OEMs.
Compaq began working with Microsoft more than a year ago to meet the testing requirements for Windows XP Ready certification, as well as to provide feedback on beta versions of the operating system. Compaq engineers have been testing for months to ensure the compatibility of drivers and other components of their computers with Windows XP, Martin said.
Computer makers can begin marketing their PCs as Windows XP Ready as soon as Microsoft verifies they meet the system requirements to run Windows XP. Microsoft expects this marketing to begin this summer with signs and demonstration machines designated as “Windows XP Ready” at retail stores.
There should be plenty of different demonstration models to choose from. OEMs, according to Frederiksen, are preparing for Windows XP faster than they did for Windows 2000, the first time Microsoft offered a similar readiness program. “We thought OEM response was great for Windows 2000, but this has been even better,” he said.
Microsoft plans to make the launch of Windows XP its biggest ever, Frederiksen said. The company will double the investment it made in marketing and promotion Windows 95 — during the first four months that Windows XP is available. “We are pulling out all the stops for Windows XP,” Frederiksen said. “And our OEM partners are doing the same by getting their computers ready for the new operating system.”
Once the demonstration machines arrive in stores, they are likely to get plenty of use — if past indicators of consumer interest hold true. It took less than a week for the first 75,000 people to sign up to test the Release Candidate 1 version of Windows XP through Microsoft’s Customer Preview Program. This near-complete version of the operating system will be available this summer.
“Microsoft has never seen this much excitement over a new product,” Frederiksen said. “This is truly significant.”