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Microsoft: There they go again

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When Microsoft decided to name its new operating system Windows XP (it had been originally code named Whistler), no doubt they hoped it would stand for "eXtra Profits." Unfortunately, if the events of the past few weeks are any indication, XP might turn out to mean "eXtra Problematic."

The company has wanted a single operating system for a long time (currently Microsoft offers Windows 98 and Windows 2000, which are successors to Windows 95 and Windows NT), and its sees the wide adoption of XP as part of its .Net master plan: to rule the Internet in much the same way it has ruled the desktop for the past 10 years. But as Microsoft approaches its planned XP launch date of October 25, 2001, significant problems have arisen.

Here are a few:

* Really bad planning.

SmartTags was the XP feature that would have allowed Microsoft to turn certain words into links (or perhaps sell them), which would have appeared on any web site, regardless of how the site felt about the practice. The public outcry was enormous, and Microsoft dropped the feature - at least for now.

Microsoft had originally wanted to limit the number of icons on the XP desktop. This was, it said, part of a design that sought a more simplified interface. But again, the idea that Microsoft could determine what icons were visible on what is arguably the most valuable real estate in history didn't sit well with many people. Last week Microsoft quietly announced that it would allow people to put whatever icons they wanted on the desktop.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the new XP technology will make it much easier for hackers to use Windows machines to launch denial-of-service attacks on unsuspecting sites.

* Really bad customer service.

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