Windows XP may be one of the most reliable products Microsoft has ever produced, but it is not all things to all people, according to a variety of users and analysts polled yesterday.

Whether or not users will buy it now largely depends on whether they are in large corporations, medium-size companies or the home, and where they are in the lifecycle of the OS they currently use, according to users and industry insiders. For remote users, XP offers some compelling reasons to upgrade, they said. For larger installations, the business case for upgrading is harder to make.

For users of all stripes stability is the main attraction of the software, according to the majority of those questioned at various launch venues in London and New York.

"It simply does not crash the way older versions used to," said Gary Dimenstein, an XP beta tester who manages Gary's Place, a family-run diamond and jewelry wholesale business in New York. Dimenstein, who attended the launch event in New York, uses Microsoft Office to help him run his business. "For performance and reliability alone, it's worth the upgrade."

But for larger installations of users, making the case for XP might be difficult, some industry insiders said.

"It looks more stable, yes — but there is a difference between one user upgrading and a big group of users," said Herbert Deleon, a manager at Alpha Sum Business Machines in New York. Alpha Sum specialises in installing 'turnkey' PC systems. "To tell you the truth, for an installation of 100 users, for instance, you have to give them a very good reason to spend money to upgrade, and I'm not sure saying 'more stability' would be enough."

Network-oriented diagnostics, combined with better device-driver support, make a compelling case for remote users to upgrade to XP, according to Lawrence Taylor, director of New York-based Cybersmith, a network installation and PC troubleshooting company.

A network manager can control remote PCs and authorise user activity over a network connection, Taylor pointed out. "The system also automatically recognises more devices; with earlier versions of Windows, you had to add on drivers for a lot of different devices," he said. "For someone in my business, it's worth the upgrade," he added.