Windows XP: Looking back, looking forward

Fred langa By Fred Langa

On October 22, Microsoft pulled the plug on sales of Windows XP, ending the operating system’s spectacular nine-year run.

With no new copies being sold, support for XP will start to decline. Fortunately, XP’s long run has produced a ton of collected wisdom: everything you need to keep your copy going strong and — when ready — to help you move on.

The end of XP is a watershed moment. It’s truly the most successful operating system in the history of personal computers. Windows 3.x was great in its day; it gave mass-market, affordable PCs the graphical prowess Microsoft needed to compete with the more expensive Macintosh computers. But it lasted only five years, from 1990 to 1995. XP’s reign was twice as long!

The Windows 9x family (95 and 98) were also stellar OSes. Windows 95, released in 1995, introduced Windows Explorer for file management and was the first Windows to exploit the power of 32-bit hardware. And it added TCP/IP networking as an integral (not bolted-on) component of the OS.

Windows 98, delivered in 1998, was the first Windows to integrate Internet Explorer. Because it was essentially free, IE quickly ignited industry controversy and ensuing legal battles for Microsoft. But as part of the Windows package, it helped with the explosive growth of the Web and the dot-com boom of the late ’90s.

In 2000, five years after the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft — late getting its next operating system out the door — released the stopgap kludge Windows ME (short for Millennium Edition; it was soon given less-charitable labels). It landed with a resounding thud. Even Vista was more popular than ME.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-11-11:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.