Science & Tech

Windows XP is 20! But will Microsoft ever learn to NOT fix what isn’t broken?

Twenty years on from the public release of Windows XP, the popular operating system is still regarded one of Microsoft’s greatest achievements.

As of August this year, Windows XP still maintained a greater market share than its successor, Windows Vista.

When mainstream support for XP ended in April 2009, it was running on a huge 75% of Windows computers and about 19% of people were still using XP when extended security support finished in 2014. Microsoft provided security support in a few special cases, such as for military use, until 2019 — an incredible 18 years after the initial release.

But what made XP excel? And what has Microsoft learned in the two decades since its release?

The rise and rise of Windows XP

Windows XP launched on October 25, 2001, during a golden age at Microsoft when the company was achieving its highest revenues yet, dominated the PC market, and had taken a strong lead over Netscape in the browser wars (after the latter led the race through the 1990s). XP also came at a time when more people than ever were buying their first personal computer.

These personal and business computers arrived with a full suite of Microsoft software pre-installed and ready to use. As a result, the Windows operating system defined many people’s computing experience.

Built on the core of the highly successful Windows NT operating system (also the foundation for Windows 2000), Windows XP provided an option which, for the first time, looked and felt the same whether it was being used at home or at work.

The prioritisation of users’ needs in this way represented a watershed moment for Microsoft, and was a key ingredient in the long reign of XP. XP also featured several innovations including the introduction of the Microsoft Error Reporting platform.

Earlier versions of Windows had become infamous for the so-called “blue screen of death” that appeared when the system encountered an error. XP replaced this with a small pop-up to collect data about the error and send it to Microsoft’s engineers to help them improve the software.

blue screen of death