Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s beloved seventh major operating system and arguably the company's most successful, was left to perish on Tuesday at its creators' hands. It was 12 years, seven months old.
For now, Windows XP will persist in brain-dead stasis on literally millions of PCs, including those of customers who have either ignored, or were never aware of, Microsoft's decision to pull the plug. Although the software may physically remain on PCs worldwide, Microsoft has stopped supporting it, leaving Windows XP vulnerable to any unpatched security holes that may arise going forward.
Windows XP's funeral, a private ceremony held deep within Microsoft, was quiet. In lieu of flowers, Microsoft urged customers to donate to Windows 8, one of Windows XP's grandchildren.
Windows XP gave way to three more generations of Microsoft software—Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8—and Microsoft has urged customers to adopt its more modern operating systems, which it says offer more security and a more modern look and feel. "Honestly," Microsoft's WindowsXP.com Web site read Monday, "it's time for a change."
Except, for many, it isn't. In March, for example, 27.7 percent of all desktop PCs tracked by NetApplications ran Windows XP. Put another way, Windows XP's gaping vulnerability was that it was simply too good.
The operating system Microsoft got right
Windows XP launched on August 24, 2001. "Simply put, Windows XP is the best operating system Microsoft has ever built," Bill Gates, the chief software architect at Microsoft, said at the time.
Previously, Microsoft had placed its enterprise operating systems and its consumer OSes onto separate tracks. Windows XP fused Windows 2000 with some of the best bits of Windows 98 and the short-lived Windows ME. It was also the end of Microsoft's line of MS-DOS based operating systems, which Gates proclaimed as the "end of an era" during XP's launch.
"It was certainly one of the strongest in terms of market appeal," said Ross Rubin, who tracked Windows for NPD and Jupiter Communications before striking out on his own as an independent analyst. "What made XP really significant is that it brought together the reliability of the Windows NT kernel with the consumer friendliness and driver support of the consumer Windows line."
For all of the vitriol directed at the Windows 8 Start page, an early build of "Whistler," as Windows XP was known, reportedly included one, too. But the early build of Windows XP released to developers in 2000 eventually gave way to the two-column Start menu that both consumers and developers fell in love with. In fact, it was this new "experience," code-named Luna, that gave Windows eXPerience its formal product name.
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