There’s been a ton of speculation lately on whether or not Microsoft will release a major update to Windows 11 this year or if the company will take a bigger leap and launch “Windows 12.” However, 23 years ago today, Microsoft didn’t keep us waiting or speculating about the next version of the OS. On February 5, 2001, the company officially announced it would launch Windows XP in the second half of the year.
Microsoft’s press release about Windows XP did admit that the OS was previously under development with the code name “Whistler.” As you can read in our earlier look at the history of Windows XP, Microsoft originally had its consumer and its business Windows teams as separate units. However, in 2000 Microsoft decided to merge those two units into one to work on Whistler, It would finally bring the Windows NT kernel to the consumer version and ditch the old MS-DOS architecture.
So, where did the final “Windows XP” name come from? Well, Microsoft was trying to ditch its date-based naming system for Windows that started with Windows 95 and continued with Windows 98. However, Microsoft used the Windows 2000 name for its business version of the OS, which forced the company to name the next consumer version Windows Millenium, shorted to Windows Me.
So for the next OS version, Microsoft went with Windows XP, which the company said was short for “eXPerience.” Both the consumer and business versions of the OS would use the “XP” name. The company would eventually release a number of different XP versions.
That included Windows XP Starter, which was made for lower-end PCs that could only run a few programs at a time. There was also Windows XP Media Center Edition, which, as the name implies, was made specifically for media hardware devices like TV set-top boxes.
The XP branding wasn’t just for Windows. Microsoft also decided to add that name to the next version of its Office productivity suite. Yes, we got Office XP in 2001 as well, in place of the previous “Office 10” code name.
Just as an aside, Microsoft seemed to have the letter “X on the brain in 2001. The company launched the first Xbox game console in the same year that Windows XP and Office XP launched. We are a little surprised that we didn’t get “XP Games” as the name. But we digress.
The announcement of both Windows XP and Office XP 23 years ago today was a fairly major turning point in Microsoft’s history. XP ended up being a huge success for the company, as big if not bigger than Microsoft 95. Windows XP was also helped by the fact Microsoft took much, much longer to release the next version of the OS, Windows Vista.
There was a gap of over five years between the release of XP and Vista (which entered general availability in January 2007). Then, Vista ended up not being well received by PC owners, and Windows XP got its support extended while Microsoft tried to release Windows 7, which it did in late 2009.
Microsoft finally ended its official support for Windows XP in April 2014, over 12 years after it launched in the fall of 2001. Ironically, Windows 7 ended up having a fairly long support life span as well, thanks to the failure of Microsoft’s Windows 8/8.1 operating system.
According to the most recent numbers from Statcounter, there are still 0.57 percent of Windows-based PCs that are running Windows XP, close to 10 years after it ended its official support time period. That means there are likely still lots of PCs running that OS that was officially announced over two decades ago. Heck we even have trains in Germany that are running on the much older Windows 3.11, for goodness sakes.