Windows XP Goes Gold Amidst Redmond Brouhaha

In what is to be the company's biggest software launch to date, Microsoft today released to manufacturing the final version of Windows XP. The announcement was made this morning in Redmond, while representatives from six computer manufacturers stood by to receive copies of the golden master complete with gold briefcases. Helicopters then lifted off with the PC makers in tow, set to begin building computers with the new operating system.

The final build, numbered 2600, was completed at 3 a.m. Saturday, August 18, after three minor bugs were discovered in 2542, the final interim release. 1,000 CDs were distributed to internal testers for a final run, and golden master disks were created Sunday. Final testing of the media and build itself completed Thursday, whereupon testers signed off on XP's release to manufacturing.

Build 2600 managed to leak out of the Microsoft campus almost immediately after its completion and was widely available for download by Saturday evening. Microsoft refused to comment on speculation that 2600 was the final release, but the jump in build numbers clearly signified the software giant was readying RTM.

Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president of Windows, today summed up the company's excitement, boasting "Windows XP rocks!"

"Windows XP is the PC experience both home and business users have been looking for with the reliability and stability they have always wanted as well as end-to-end experiences with digital photos, digital music and communication. This is the operating system I have always wanted to build," Allchin said.

Windows XP will arrive in stores on October 25, but is expected to ship on new PCs as early as September 17.

A Compaq representative told BetaNews, "We will start testing the code minutes after RTM. If we don't have any major issues with the RTM code, we will create the final XP disk image for our product lines (Home, Portable and Desktop) after a short qualification process. Products with the XP image will hit stores before October 25. Products with an old image will include a voucher for a free XP upgrade."

As expected, Microsoft will price upgrade versions of Windows XP Home Edition and Professional at $99 USD and $199 USD, respectively. The full version will run $199 USD for Home Edition with Professional retailing at $299 USD.

Although prices have dropped since, Windows Me and Windows 2000 cost about $9 more than their XP counterparts upon release.

While both editions are very similar, XP Professional -- aimed at businesses -- adds remote desktop capabilities, offline files, support for dual processors, NTFS, and advanced management tools.

Microsoft will begin a billion-dollar marketing blitz to promote the new Windows amidst concerns over Windows Product Activation and a declining PC marketplace. But Redmond doesn't seem the slightest bit worried.

"The performance improvements and advanced features of Windows XP are the culmination of more than 15 years of research, development and customer feedback. For customers, computer manufacturers and industry partners, Windows XP truly underscores the excitement and potential of the digital decade ahead," said company chairman Bill Gates.

Stated Gates: "Simply put, Windows XP is the best operating system Microsoft has ever built."

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