In preparation for next month’s release of Windows XP, Microsoft has announced a program whereby users who purchase the home version of the new operating system and belatedly decide they’d rather have the Pro version can upgrade without paying full price for a new copy. Windows XP Pro, intended for business users, sells for $200 (street); the Step-Up program lets you purchase an upgrade kit for $125
“This will be a shrink-wrapped product available in stores where Windows XP is sold,” says Nate Bucholz, a Windows XP spokesperson. “This is most likely for folks who purchased a PC preloaded with Home Edition, but have decided they want the functionality of Pro.”
In all likelihood, the market for such an upgrade will be small. The differences between the Home and Pro versions are numerous–see the Windows XP Comparison Guide (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/howtobuy/choosing2.asp)–but, according to Rob Enderle, a research fellow with the Giga Information Group, Windows XP Pro offers only two or three extras that home users are likely to need.
Some users may need the Pro version in order to make use of more than one CPU. If you’re running a two- or four-processor machine with Home Edition, you’ll only benefit from one of those chips and the rest will go unused. “If you have a multiprocessor machine, you’d pay the $125 [for the upgrade to Windows XP Pro] because the Home Edition won’t use multiple processors,” says Enderle. “That said, PC makers aren’t likely to sell multiprocessor workstations with Home Edition, and anyone who already owns a multiprocessor workstation would only purchase Home Edition by mistake.”
Others may upgrade so they can use multiple displays, but this is even less likely: “If you want to use double displays–which the Home Edition can’t handle–when you buy a dual-display card from Matrox or nVidia, those vendors will supply a driver that can handle both displays,” says Enderle.
The only other technology from the Pro version that home users may want is remote desktop, which allows access to a Windows XP system from another PC. The chances are next to nil that a home user would need any of Windows XP Pro’s networking technologies. “Other than Bill Gates’s house, I can’t picture anyone else having a network that would require Pro,” concludes Enderle. “Being able to administer a lot of machines from a central location is just not something you’re going to do in your house.”
And surely no IT manager running a corporate network would mistakenly purchase the Home Edition. But for those who do, there’s the Microsoft Step-Up program.