Few new apps on display at XP partner showcase

Bill Gates kicked off two days of Windows XP launch ceremonies here with the declaration that Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system facilitates "things people never expected to be able to do with PCs."

Scores of Microsoft partners filled a floor at the Marriott Marquis with kiosks hosting demos of Windows XP-optimized third-party applications for home and corporate users. But despite Gates' grand pronouncement, Windows XP-only features and products were in short supply.

Corel Corp. representatives were on the floor showing off the company's consumer-targeted CorelDraw Essentials package of graphics and photo-editing software. Released in July, the package has few features unavailable under earlier versions of Microsoft Windows, but will run faster on Windows XP, according to a Corel spokesman.

Adobe Systems Inc. representatives had similar things to say about the current version of Photoshop Elements, Adobe's Photoshop software for home users, which also has virtually no Windows XP-specific new features but is optimized for the new operating system.

Hardware vendors were in the same position, turning out at the demo event to announce their compatibility with Windows XP but with few new technologies to promote. 3Com Corp. announced that 60 of its networking products support Windows XP; Intel Corp. praised its "long and productive history" of working with Microsoft and displayed the graphics-crunching power of the Windows XP-Pentium 4 combo; and Dell Computer Corp. introduced a zero-percent leasing option for U.S.-based small businesses purchasing new PCs, including those with Windows XP.

WorldCom Inc. was among the handful of vendors demonstrating technology specifically enabled by new features in Windows XP. The new operating system's underlying real-time communications capabilities make possible new multimedia features such as videoconferencing over IP (Internet Protocol) and secure chat, said a WorldCom representative. In early 2002, WorldCom plans to introduce Web-based user profiles and advanced call forwarding features.

Authentication products developer Digital Persona Inc. debuted U.are.U Personal, a fingerprint scanner for home users. Windows XP is the first Windows version that supports biometrics under a native API (Application Program Interface), according to a Digital Persona spokesman -- an advance that, coupled with Windows XP's support for multiple user profiles on a shared computer, allows users to securely log on to their own PC configuration with one touch. The 2-inch, US$69 scanner also allows users to enter stored passwords with a touch.

Windows XP demos will be held Wednesday night at several area Gateway Country and CompUSA Inc. stores. Windows XP will be officially launched Thursday morning.

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Stacy Cowley

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