Skipping lightly over Windows 2000 (Microsoft’s first attempt to use the NT kernel on a general-purpose machine), we arrive at one of Microsoft’s stellar accomplishments, Windows XP. More accurately, XP (Oct. 2001) was the precursor to one of Microsoft’s true stellar accomplishments, XP Service Pack 2 (Aug. 2004). XP was the premiere version of Windows for five and a half years, and it was supported for almost 14 years.
Windows XP brought a bundle of new features, including a new cascading Start menu, ClearType subpixel rendering, better handling of taskbar icons, fast user switching, Shadow Copy, System Restore, Remote Assistance, Remote Desktop, Windows Media Player, Windows Movie Maker, and a more adaptable Windows Explorer with native Zip file handling. It was faster and far more stable than the DOS-based Win 9x series. The first version of XP was bundled with IE 6, Outlook Express 6, and Windows Messenger. Windows XP also started us down the road of validation and the “genuine” experience.
Windows XP Professional added the ability to join a Windows domain, Remote Desktop server, Encrypting File System, Offline files and folders, Group Policy editor, and a handful of more esoteric features.
Bill Gates, looking at the sorry state of Windows XP security, instituted his Trustworthy Computing initiative in Jan. 2002. The initiative directly led to a massive walkthrough of XP code and the re-issuing of XP as what we now call Windows XP SP2. The Trustworthy Computing Group closed down in Sept. 2014.
Other XP versions have thrived in niche markets, while Windows XP itself became nearly ubiquitous, selling 17 million copies in its first two months, according to Microsoft. Ubiquity, however, made XP a massive target for malware. SP2 addressed the security problems but didn’t solve them. IE6 grew a popup blocker, but also rolled out ActiveX, which became a magnet for attacks.