As an MCSE with 5+ years of NT / Solaris / Linux Sysadmin experience, I have had the pleasure of watching NT mature from a half-baked Unix-wannabe to the scalable, robust platform it is today. A similar maturation process has taken place on the desktop; the abandonment of legacy cruft and the adoption of the WinNT codebase across the board is an excellent move whose time has come. Call me a troll if that resolves your inner conflicts ;) but I truly believe that admin and consumer alike will benefit from a more stable Windows.
I've been running Windows XP on my home PC for the last couple of weeks. The experience has been a mixed bag, but with a few caveats my overall impression is favorable.
First the negatives:
I had some problems with non-certified drivers for My AHA 2920 SCSI card and CD burner, but those were fixed with help from folks at this Win XP newsgroup. (PS: Thx guys, you ROCK!)
Albert Einstein is quoted as having remarked that "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler". In this regard, Microsoft has perhaps erred on the side of simplicity, as is their wont. The average, non-technical user will take this for granted, as most people are not interested in tweaking their systems beyond changing their home page. Geeks will be frustrated by a GUI which is as nearly as opaque as anything designed by Apple.
Now on to some positives:
The GUI is clean, intuitive, stable, and visually intense without being overbearing; what at first looks cartoony and flimsy quickly grows comfortable - unlike previous versions, this looks like it was designed by, and for, humans. I have worked with Linux in the server room and admire its performance there, and I'm rooting for tux on the desktop (let's hear it for the underdog!), but I must make decisions based on my subjective experience, as the success or failure of an OS ultimately rests on the experience of the end-user. I find KDE and Gnome both to be kludgey and incomplete, they have never really "drawn me in" the way the Windows XP environment has. KDE has wrecked my fonts one too many times for comfort. M$FT spends ridiculously large amounts of money on Interface, and it shows!
So far I've focused on the GUI. I'd like to make a few comments regarding the underlying OS. First, if you're looking for a mature Journaled Filesystem, you need look no further than NTFS in its present iteration. I have abused the hell out of a Windows XP box set up at work for just that purpose. One remarkable example: I hit the power switch in the middle of a serious disk write, and after a quick check, the system was back up and running with nary a hiccup. Contrast that with the notoriously buggy ReiserFS, and you can see where the dream has fallen short of reality. Microsoft's innovative Encrypted File System is another area where the competition pales.
While the Open Source model works great for smaller, task-specific projects, there is simply no substitute for a single-vendor codebase when it comes to integrating the OS and the GUI. Until the Linux evangelists face this unpleasant fact, Linux on the desktop will remain the province of hobbyists and the technical elite.
Let's face it: Win XP is not perfect, and not for everybody, but in many ways outshines anything M$FT or its competitors have come up with to date. Throw 64-bit support into the mix - assuming it works ;) and you've got a real class-act. What's your opinion?