Microsoft Windows XP Is Finally Dead, Nearly 18 Years Post-Launch
As of today, the long saga of Microsoft Windows XP has finally come to an end. The venerable operating system’s last publicly supported variant — Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 — reached the end of its life cycle support on April 9, 2019. Prior to this point, it was still possible to use a registry hack to enable OS updates on still-operating versions of Windows XP Home and Windows XP Pro SP3, though Microsoft strenuously argued that users shouldn’t do this.
It’s not clear how many users are still using Windows XP worldwide. Surveys like the Steam Hardware Survey no longer show any results for the venerable OS, while NetMarketShare claims worldwide, 3.72 percent of machines are still running XP. The OS was supported in-market (in one form or another) for 17 years, 7 months, and 16 days — just shy of being old enough to vote.
I was an early adopter of Windows XP, from RC1 forwards. What I remember most about it was its ability to stabilize formerly recalcitrant PCs that didn’t behave particularly well on Windows 98 SE. This is not to say that XP didn’t or couldn’t have stability issues, or that every 16-bit piece of software or 98SE-loving peripheral behaved well with the OS, but XP remains the only operating system I ever looked to for its ability to resolve issues outright that were hampering a machine on a different operating system. Initially controversial for its “candy” visuals, devoted fans of the OS were clinging to it with both hands by the time Windows Vista was mature, insisting they’d let go when God Himself reached down to pry their fingers off. Fortunately, Windows 7 was good enough that most people let go on their own. But not everyone. Windows XP was also the first OS to seriously suffer from a major “good enough” problem that saw end-users refusing to update long after the OS had passed its prime.
This was partly a reaction to Windows Vista and partly the result of XP’s unusually long tenure. When Bill Gates decided to put a major emphasis on security with Windows XP SP2, Microsoft didn’t go with rebranding or launching a new version of the OS despite making a number of significant changes under the hood. Prior to XP, Microsoft had iterated its consumer operating systems relatively quickly, with Windows 3.1 in 1992, followed by Windows 95, 98, and Windows ME in 2000. XP’s tenure was significantly longer — it was Microsoft’s primary consumer OS for over five years (2001-2006) and continued to be popular in-market until after the release of Windows 7 in 2009.
This longevity could, at times, be downright annoying. Introduced in the dying days of floppy disks, one oversight in Windows XP was the inability to manually load storage drivers off anything other than a floppy disk, which got downright annoying towards the end of its life when testing AHCI or RAID arrays. (Yes, it was possible to slipstream drivers into new burned copies of Windows XP. It was also really frickin’ annoying to continually burn new copies of Windows XP.) Some of the lessons Microsoft learned during the XP era about how hard it was to move people off a version of an OS they liked and wanted to keep using are likely responsible for Windows 10’s status as an eternal, always-updated product — though Microsoft has taken several steps to relax this policy as well and return additional control to users.
As the first OS to unify its professional Windows NT codebase (inherited from Win2K) and the higher degree of compatibility with the Win9x codebase that ordinary users expected, Windows XP shaped every OS that came after. It’s arguably the first modern OS that Microsoft ever built and its impact on the wider market is unlikely to be repeated. No matter how popular Windows 10 ever becomes, it competes in a much more varied ecosystem.
Goodnight, sweet prince. May flights of BSODs sing thee to thy rest.
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