The 15 Most Important Technologies of the Last 15 Years – #13: Windows XP

In recent times, the mobile device revolution has changed the face of technology for most of us. Prior to that the dominant technology was the personal computer. Within the PC market Microsoft ruled for nearly 20 years with its various versions of Windows. Even as new versions of Windows were released over the last decade, for the last 15 years it was Windows XP that for better or worse defined what a personal computer was to most people.

Introduced in late 2001, it was within about a year that Windows XP started to gain significant footholds in the PC marketplace. This was likely because Windows XP was the culmination of years of Microsoft development to merge their aging Windows 95 and 98 line of consumer operating systems with the relative reliability of their business-oriented and modern Windows NT and 2000. From a practical standpoint, besides the usual hiccups involved in a Microsoft release, Windows XP delivered on the promise of bringing a powerful and modern operating system to mainstream computing. Truly, Windows XP was the pinnacle of Microsoft’s dominance in the technology industry before circumstances began to change that precipitated their slow decline.

In the year or two prior to Windows XP’s release, a big surge in high profile malware attacks started to plague all Windows-based operating systems. Windows XP was not immune to these attacks and within a couple of years, the rapid development of spyware and other new forms of malware threatened to cripple organizations dependent on their Windows technology infrastructure. Microsoft made a very public commitment to devote significant resources to revamp the security underpinnings of Windows XP at the expense of developing their next operating system. For a variety of reasons including the focus on improving the security of their operating systems, it took six years after the release of Windows XP for Microsoft to finally release a new OS. This delay of a new operating system had the effect of entrenching Windows XP in the minds of many computer users and businesses. The simple fact that many people became used to one operating system for so many years made them very comfortable with it and less willing to change. Then the publicity disaster of Windows Vista in 2007 further generated resistance to change. Many people put off buying a Vista computer or ordered new PCs with XP instead, keeping XP as the de-facto standard. Finally, the combination of a down economy and the start of the mobile device revolution depressed the PC market and Windows XP ended up far outliving its expected lifespan much to the chagrin of Microsoft and their stockholders. Even with the release of Windows 7 in 2009, it still took until late 2011 for Windows 7 to overtake Windows XP in number of installations. All in all, the Windows XP era lasted about 10 years or more and even though it is officially no longer supported, there are still significant numbers of Windows XP machines deployed and in use today.

For better or worse, was Windows XP a significant technology to you over the last 15 years? Comment below and share your thoughts!