RIP Windows XP

February 3, 2021 by No Comments

As we move swiftly through the beginning of the New Year, I reflect back on where technology has taken us during the past 20 years. There is hardly a corner of business that technology hasn’t touched; from the mom and pop store on the corner to the largest enterprises, the influence of technology is inescapable. It was during the 1990s when Microsoft helped propel the world into this headlong rush to bigger, better and faster with the Windows operating system running on a personal computer. Now, the most widely used version of Windows, Windows XP, is facing the end of support in a matter of weeks. The decade-long run was unprecedented for XP, and despite its popularity and huge rate of adoption, XP has run its course and is no longer capable of carrying the demanding load of today’s blazing technology.

While XP may be the most widely adopted OS, it’s far from the groundbreaker you might expect it to be. Surprisingly, few know that Windows dates back to the early 1980s when computer scientist Chase Bishop created the design for the first operating system code named “Interface Manager.” This early operating system was announced to the public in 1983 as Windows and was then finally released as Windows 1.0 in 1985. This early version of Windows was created to compete with Apple’s Macintosh OS, but it was really an extension of the old clunky MS-DOS operating system that rudimentary PCs utilized. Progress dictated advancements in the software, and from Windows 1.0 came 2.0, 3.0 and the then-popular Windows 3.1.

The release of Windows 3.1 marked an important milestone; it was the most widely used operating system to date and its interface began to take shape into the familiar look of versions we are familiar with today. Creating better and better iterations of the Windows operating system, Microsoft superseded 3.1 with Windows 95 and the iconic Start button. Most importantly, it was with Windows 95 that the first version of Internet Explorer was released in the summer of 1995. Consumer demand drove the release of Windows 98 in the summer of 1998 showcasing upgrades for easily navigating between programs and accessing information across the PC.

Microsoft’s first major hiccup, Windows ME, made its debut during the early summer of 2000 and was aimed specifically at home users. It was a very short lived OS and was often criticized for being sluggish and unstable. During this same time, Microsoft released Windows 2000 Professional which was designed to replace Windows 95, Windows 98, and the Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The abject failure of Windows ME allowed Windows 2000 to salvage some measure of respectability while fending off challenges from long-time nemesis Apple. Microsoft knew they couldn’t afford another big swing and miss like Windows ME nor could they stand still and let the brand languish. So just weeks after the world changed forever with the horrors of 9/11, Microsoft took the bold step and released Windows XP.

It was during this pivotal release that Microsoft made a clear distinction between consumer and business versions of the OS. Windows XP Home catered to the needs and wants of the home user and average consumer while Windows XP Professional was tailored for the heavy usage and increased demands placed on it by the business world. The love affair with Windows XP endured and thrived, especially in the commercial space, and even when Microsoft tried to coax users into upgrading to newer versions such as Windows Vista (an ME-like bomb) and Windows 7 which was much closer in stability and usability to the XP that users and administrators had grown to know and adore.

With all the success and mutual admiration for Windows XP and its server OS counterpart Windows 2003, the question remains; why is it going away? One huge reason is cost. Microsoft spends an inordinate amount of money on keeping all of their software versions up-to-date, patched and free from vulnerabilities. With newer operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, having teams nurse along a 12 year old OS that is slowly declining in market share starts to eat away at the bottom line. Also, newer hardware and memory systems are being incorporated into PCs, and servers demand more robust performance and speed. The limitations in the Windows XP code are just are too great to overcome to make it viable on some of these platforms. Lastly with the tablet revolution in full swing, Windows XP can’t even begin to be modified to create the rich experience we have come to expect on mobile devices.

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