How you sell Windows XP depends on your customer base. But it also depends on how proactive you want to be. In the retail channel, most Windows XP Home edition sales will probably be no different to any other popular product - stack 'em high and keep topping up the pile.
However, in the Windows XP Professional market, while you can do the same thing, the real sales will come from attention to your customers' needs. There has never been a Microsoft operating system launch with better tools for the reseller and IT manager alike, but the tools won't come and tap you on the shoulder - you still have to do some of the work yourself.
In particular, have you thought about how you'll sell the advantages of upgrading the corporate desktops to this latest operating system? And just as important, have you considered the hardware implications of the upgrade?
XP Professional is an upgrade for Windows 98 and ME, and also Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and Windows 2000 Professional. However, there are still many desktops running on Windows 95 and NT 3.x and these must be considered prime candidates for replacement by the latest product. These latter two products are covered in the licensing upgrade, but not the shrink-wrap upgrade.
Why do it?
When your customers ask if they should be deploying Windows XP on their desktops, you probably can't do better than quote Microsoft, even if it is a little biased to say the least.
"Windows XP Professional customers will benefit with improved productivity from better reliability, better performance and the simplification of everyday tasks, empowerment to conduct business any time, anywhere, with secure access to business information and improved responsiveness and a professional image as a result of always being connected."
You'll also hear people say, "I love Microsoft products when they're stable. I usually wait until the first service pack is released." The obvious answer to this is that XP is far from being untested technology - it's firmly based on Windows 2000 which has proven itself to be much more stable and reliable than any of the Windows 9.x family.
Don't forget hardware
Any upgrade to Windows XP is an opportunity for selling hardware too. This isn't so much because XP has higher system requirements than prior versions, but more because any existing system is likely to be below par for today's desktop user, especially if it's more than 12 months old. For instance, the BIOS may be well overdue for upgrading. Check Microsoft's hardware compatibility list online at http://microsoft.com/hcl/.
The most logical and cost-effective upgrade is simply to add more RAM. Many of the desktops out there still only have 32 or 64MB of RAM, and both XP and current desktop applications will benefit from 128 megs or more. For your larger users, it may be worth setting up a pair of demo machines - identical except that you've increased the RAM in one of them. Just make sure that any demonstrations involve the running of a typical, full set of applications. And if you're feeling adventurous, remember that XP supports 4 gigabytes!
When upgrading to Windows XP on older hardware, remember that the drivers you need may not be supplied with XP, so it's always a good idea to try an upgrade on a typical machine, then obtain the necessary drivers from the manufacturer's Web site before attempting a large-scale upgrade.
Don't be afraid to tell your customers when their hardware has reached the end of its usable life. Experience has shown that rather than losing the sale on the operating system upgrade, you'll win a lot of new hardware business. It might also be worth your while showing your customers how they can sell their old machines. This would normally include a regime of wiping the hard disk and ensuring that no software applications were loaded. A popular way to sell the machines is to the staff. You should be prepared to suggest a fair price, and possibly offer a basic support service for the new owners. Of course, you should also be prepared to say when a machine is only fit for the metal yard.
Additional software opportunities
Office XP (aka 2002) stands out as an ideal add-on sale for any Windows XP upgrade sales. Not only are the two products so well integrated with each other, but Office XP has proven to add much to the productivity and satisfaction of its users. The Microsoft site (www.microsoft.com.au) has some useful tools here, such as a comparison of Office 2000 and 2002.
You should also determine the main software in use on the machines. You may be able to advise your customers of free upgrades for an XP environment, or in some cases there may be upgrade sales opportunities.
Check upgrade mode
When checking machines and applications for suitability as upgrade candidates, don't forget the Check Upgrade Only mode. This doesn't try to upgrade the operating system, but lets you know of potential hardware and software incompatibilities.
You'll also have to contend with some older applications that won't run on XP without some sort of intervention. This information is available online at the Microsoft site. Remember that there are numerous tools and documents there that will help you and your clients prepare for the upgrade process. These range from tips for home users right up to extremely detailed deployment plans for corporate users who wish to automate their upgrade process or design brand new desktop setups based on user profiles.
There are many more topics that we could only touch on in this article. For instance, what hard disk file system will they use, and have they considered the implications of the new security features? What about notebooks? The enhanced connectivity means that many decisions will have to be made there.
It's imperative that you avail yourself of the tools and training provided by Microsoft and your distributor. While we've only discussed upgrading, you also have to consider the option of a clean install, usually a much better proposition. Then there's the subject of licensing - a boon to corporates, not only because it opens up more upgrade possibilities, but because it obviates the need for product activation.
Yes, pre-sales of Windows XP
can involve a deal of commitment on your part, but it should certainly be worth it. Now, how many copies do you want sir?