When we first ran the Baseline Scenario we thought for certain we were in for a major upset. According to OfficeBench 2001, our Windows NT Workstation 4.0 configuration was a solid 60% faster than its nearest competitor, Windows 2000 Professional. And while the gap closed significantly when upgraded the boxes to Office XP, the venerable Windows NT was still 10% faster than the more sophisticated Windows 2000 and a full 26% faster than Windows XP (Beta 2).

The tables turned, however, when the focus shifted to Multitasking performance. Here the various optimizations in the Windows 2000 kernel allowed it to pull ahead of Windows NT 4.0 by 8% when running against Office 2000. The same tests yielded a delta of 7% when Office XP was used. And while the gap between Windows XP and Windows NT 4.0 closed significantly under this scenario, the new OS still trailed its immediate predecessor, Windows 2000, by 11-12% across both Office versions.

Interesting numbers, to be sure. However, the real story only becomes apparent when you compare the data on a combined OS/Application generation basis. Viewed in this light, the move from Windows 2000/Office 2000 to Windows XP/Office XP translates into a performance hit of from 30-37%, depending on the workloads involved. This is a huge drop in overall system throughput and a chilling testament to just how bloated the Windows/Office code base has become.

Disclaimer: The above results are based on an analysis of the Beta 2 build of Windows XP Professional. Microsoft will no doubt incorporate significant optimizations as we draw closer to the RTM date. Still, 37% is an enormous delta, and it has been our experience that late build OS optimizations are worth, at best, a 10-15% improvement over an otherwise polished Beta.

The net result is that customers will need to budget for a 25-30% performance loss per client PC when transitioning from Windows 2000/Office 2000 to Windows XP/Office XP. Put into real-world terms, this represents the equivalent of a 500MHz performance delta – i.e. you’d need to crank-up the processor clock on our test bed by 33% to 2GHz in order to compensate for performance lost to OS and application “inflation.”

The Test Final Words

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