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With a promotional budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, Microsoft Corp. will stage an unprecedented bash to launch its new operating system, Windows XP, in October. At least that’s the plan, barring what Microsoft calls “release schedule slippage.” Microsoft claims the new system will be the most stable version of Windows ever, as well as offering more features than any other operating system. XP also will be the most demanding of a computer’s resources. For XP, Microsoft recommends using a computer with at least a 300 MHz processor, 128 MB of memory and 1.5 GB of disk space. One feature of the system, Windows Messenger, will offer real-time communication features that firms will find useful. “Windows XP delivers the next level of communications through real-time audio- and video-conferencing, application sharing and online collaboration,” the company promises. The big question for a Windows user now is whether to be an early adopter — to take advantage of all the great, new features — or take the conservative approach and let Microsoft work out the early-release bugs. Here are some Web sites that can help answer the question of when to upgrade: Microsoft Windows XP www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/ Microsoft’s official Windows XP page is a good place to start learning about the new operating system — and the page’s countdown clock tells how long users have to wait for the big unveiling. A link to a preview program takes users to a registration form that can be used to order a preview version of the software for $9.95. The site also features specifications of Windows XP’s professional and home editions, news and reviews and discussion groups. WinPlanet www.winplanet.com Much of this site covers Microsoft’s other new XP product: Office XP. But the news headlines section has links to the latest stories on the operating system, some of it not so favorable for Microsoft. Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows www.winsupersite.com Microsoft can find a lot to like about this site; it obviously is a big fan of the company’s new software package. The review section has a collection of screen views that show what the new XP user will experience in a few months. A related site, www.informant.com, offers a more objective look at XP, especially with its daily updates on the new operating system. PCWorld.com www.pcworld.com A simple way to find objective news on the new system is to go to PC World magazine’s Web site and do a search for “Windows XP.” ZDNet www.zdnet.com This site, which covers almost everything imaginable in the world of computing, is a good place to find commentary and breaking news on the new operating system.

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