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Microsoft Windows
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Microsoft Windows

\Microsoft Windows is a range of commercial operating environments for personal computers. The range was first introduced by Microsoft in 1985 and eventually came to dominate the world personal computer market. All recent versions of Windows are fully-fledged operating systems.

Table of contents
1 Versions
2 Interface
3 Popularity
4 Security
5 Contemporary Versions
6 Initiatives
7 Current Versions of Windows
8 Past versions of Windows
9 Emulation and virtual machine software
10 See also
11 External links


The term Windows is used as a collective term for several generations of products, which can be classified into the following categories:


The most obvious feature of the more recent Windows versions (since Windows 95 and NT 4.0) is the desktop, which is similar to the "Workplace Shell" introduced by IBM for OS/2 2.0 in 1992, an object-oriented GUI running on the OS/2 Presentation Manager. The Windows desktop has produced a significant change in the way people and computers interact; it is possible to perform many common tasks with very little computer knowledge, including some quite complex ones.

Windows XP introduced a new visual style dubbed "Luna", which updated the classic Windows style (a plain 2D look) with a more graphical appearance. The new style features bold colors and a larger titlebar and start button, leading many to call it the "playskool" interface (after a popular brand of children's toys). Users can still elect to use the old Windows 95/2000 visual style.

Modern operating systems need to cater for the vastly increased user base with a lower average computer skill level and the increased power and complexity of modern computer systems. Therefore, some technically savvy users accuse the Windows interface of isolating the user from too much of the inner workings of the computer, making it more difficult to control and configure some system features. However, this has always been an issue to some extent with GUI operating systems, and, to a lesser extent, almost all operating systems, by definition.


Thought to be installed on over 90% of personal computers, Windows has achieved enormous market penetration due in large part to the domination of MS-DOS in the early days of IBM-PC clones, and also because it is the primary platform for Microsoft Office and its proprietary document formats used by most microcomputer users. Windows comes pre-installed on most computers (as a bundled OEM version), making it the default choice for much of the market, since vendors going for alternatives are likely to face retaliation from Microsoft. Most consumers do not delete Windows and install another operating system, although this is an option. Microsoft Windows comes preinstalled in most microcomputers, for many historical reasons which gave Microsoft a dominant share in the operating system market.


Security has been a major issue with Windows family products for many years. Most modern operating systems were designed for security in a multi-user and/or networked environment and have a relatively small number of security issues. Windows was originally designed for ease-of-use on a single-user PC without a network connection, and did not have security features built in from the outset. Combined with occasionally flawed code (such as buffer overruns) Windows has been the successful target of worms and virus writers numerous times. The Blaster worm of August 2003 is a recent example.

Microsoft publicly admitted their ongoing security problems shortly after the turn of the century and (according to their press statements) now regard security as the number one priority.

Microsoft releases security patches through its Windows Update service approximately once a month, although critical updates are made available at shorter intervals. In Windows 2000 and Windows XP, updates can be automatically downloaded and installed if the user elects to do so.

Microsoft introduced a new security initiative called Palladium in 2001. The system has since been renamed "Next Generation Secure Computing Base". Palladium is a system intended to allow a program to verify that it is unmodified, and is running on "trusted" hardware with "trusted" drivers and a "trusted" architecture. This, in theory, assures the software that it is running on unmodified software and hardware. Palladium has a particular use in DRM systems. A side effect will be to lock out "untrusted" operating systems at the hardware level: this is likely to impact Linux in particular, since there is no single canonical Linux which can be certified, and many users consider the ability to customise the system one of its main attractions. Some conspiracy theorists hold that this is the secret reason behind the system, although in practice it is unlikely that Microsoft will try to prevent Linux vendors such as Red Hat from having their products certified.


Microsoft has a number of new initiatives planned or in progress: .NET, Palladium and the "Longhorn" operating system, which is due in or around 2005, although some Microsoft executives have indicated that a 2006 release is likely. There is some current speculation that Microsoft may use .NET and Longhorn as a way of moving away from the Windows brand. It is suggested that this may help Microsoft avoid the consequences of antitrust actions, as it will be able to claim that the Windows successor is an entirely new product, and not subject to any regulation applied to Windows. Further down the road, there is the "Blackcomb" operating system, which is due sometime around 2008, and will have both a client (for the average user) and server version.

Current Versions of Windows

Past versions of Windows

Emulation and virtual machine software

Emulation or the use of "virtual machines" allow the use of some Windows applications without using Microsoft Windows.

See also

External links

History of Microsoft Windows
Windows: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.x | NT | 95 | 98 | Me | 2000 | XP | Server 2003 | CE | PPC | WM | Longhorn | Blackcomb