Windows XP debuts to a rock beat

Microsoft is unveiling its new Windows XP operating system at a lavish gala at the Experience Music Project (EMP) museum here. Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, is expected to take the stage soon to show a completely revamped version of the company's flagship product that stands as the biggest change since the Windows 95 release, according to the company.

Formerly code-named "Whistler", Windows XP should be out by the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to appeal mostly to consumers. The OS was designed with a heavy focus on running media-rich applications to entice media-savvy users.

In 1995, for the launch of its Windows 95 operating system, Microsoft enlisted the help of The Rolling Stones and the group's song, "Start Me Up". This time Microsoft is relying on Jimi Hendrix and his rock classic "Are You Experienced" to set the tone. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen created the EMP as tribute to Hendrix.

Also adding to the mood here is the huge Windows XP banner on the city's landmark Space Needle.

As for actual product specifics, users might also be pleased that the new OS is said to offer improved stability. Windows XP is Microsoft's first operating system geared towards consumers that uses the same code-base as Windows 2000 and NT, which target business users.

"One of the things Microsoft suffers from is that the market has changed," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with Gartner Group. "People see PCs as appliances. The enthusiasts are out there, and those are the people Microsoft will happily take cheques from."

Le Tocq looks for technophiles to lead early adoption of the new OS, citing their interest in the updated look and feel. It could take some time, however, to attract those who see the PC as an extension of their home entertainment setup. The revamped version of Windows comes packed with media applications but will that be enough to push it past more common media players in the mass markets, Le Tocq questioned.

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