- Apr 24, 2016
Microsoft released Windows XP, one of the most popular and enduring versions of Windows ever, on October 25, 2021.It brought a graphical refresh and much-needed stability to consumer Windows. We take a look back at what made it special.
It Brought Windows NT to Consumers, Finally
In the early 1990s, Microsoft began working on a next-generation operating system called Windows NT that would leave Microsoft’s MS-DOS-based roots behind. It incorporated a brand new kernel and other technologies that made it very stable and reliable. At first, NT proved too hardware intensive to run well on the typical consumer PC, so Microsoft aimed it at the professional and server markets. With Windows 2000, Microsoft almost brought NT to the consumer market, but decided to hold off and released Windows Millennium Edition (Me) instead. But the company knew the shift to NT was inevitable.
Windows Me (like Windows 95 and 98 before it) ran on technology carried over from MS-DOS that made it prone to frequent, catastrophic crashes. After Windows Me garnered a poor critical and customer response in 2000, Microsoft knew its next consumer OS would need to finally take up the NT mantle.
After extensive prototyping, including abandoning earlier attempts at a consumer NT-based operating system, Microsoft settled on a prototype called “Whistler” that would eventually turn into Windows XP. According to Microsoft, the “XP” meant “experience,” with a promise to focus on user experience in the new release.
Unlike the divide between operating systems like Windows 95 and NT 4.0 in the past (or Windows Me and Windows 2000), XP would unify Microsoft’s consumer and professional Windows products under one brand, albeit in two different editions.
Windows XP brought eye candy to Windows in a big way, marking the first significant departure from the classic grey Windows theme introduced in Windows 95. Thanks to a visual style called Luna, Windows XP defaulted to a colorful design that featured a blue taskbar with a green Start button, blue window title bars, and bright red “X” buttons to close Windows.