Microsoft Windows

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Definition of Microsoft Windows in Network Encyclopedia.

What is Microsoft Windows?

Microsoft Windows is a family of operating systems with a common graphical user interface (GUI) that lies at the core of Microsoft’s strategy to make PCs easier to use, reduce the cost of PC ownership, advance the PC platform, and integrate PCs with the Internet.

Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows operating system originally derived from MS-DOS, Microsoft’s watershed disk operating system for personal computers.

The first windows operating system was Windows 1.0, released on November 20, 1985.

The early 16-bit versions of Windows, Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups, evolved into the 32-bit desktop operating system Windows 95, which was later upgraded to Windows 98. Meanwhile, a separate, fully 32-bit line-of-business operating system called Windows NT Advanced Server evolved into Windows NT version 3.51, which was further enhanced with additional services and a shell upgrade in Windows NT 4. These separate Windows NT and Windows 98 platforms will eventually be merged into the Windows 2000 family, which includes versions for all levels of users, from enterprise-level mission-critical servers to personal desktop computers.

Another evolutionary path has recently brought forth Windows CE, a low-footprint operating system for palm-sized PCs and embedded systems.

All versions of Windows are now fully integrated with the Internet through the Microsoft Internet Explorer suite of Internet tools and utilities.

Microsoft Windows Operating Systems history

Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world’s personal computer (PC) market with over 90% market share, overtaking Mac OS, which had been introduced in 1984. Apple came to see Windows as an unfair encroachment on their innovation in GUI development as implemented on products such as the Lisa and Macintosh (eventually settled in court in Microsoft’s favor in 1993).

On PCs, Windows is still the most popular operating system. However, in 2014, Microsoft admitted losing the majority of the overall operating system market to Android, because of the massive growth in sales of Android smartphones. In 2014, the number of Windows devices sold was less than 25% that of Android devices sold. This comparison however may not be fully relevant, as the two operating systems traditionally target different platforms. Still, numbers for server use of Windows (that are comparable to competitors) show one third market share, similar to that for end-user use.

As of October 2018, the most recent version of Windows for PCs, tablets, smartphones and embedded devices is Windows 10. The most recent version for server computers is Windows Server 2019, version 1903. A specialized version of Windows also runs on the Xbox One video game console.

The following tables list all Microsoft Windows versions.

Microsoft Windows Operating Systems for PCs

Microsoft Operating SystemRelease Date
Windows 3.01990
Windows 3.1March 1, 1992
Windows 3.11 for WorkgroupsAugust 1993
Windows 95August 24, 1995
Windows 98June 25, 1998
Windows 98 SE (Second Edition)May 1999
Windows ME (Millennium Edition)September 14, 2000
Windows XPOctober 25, 2001
Windows VistaNovember 30, 2006
Windows 7July 22, 2009
Windows 8October 26, 2012
Windows 8.1October 17, 2013
Windows 10September 30, 2014

Microsoft Windows Operating Systems for professional workstations

Microsoft Operating System Release Date
Windows NT 3.1July 27, 1993
Windows NT 3.5 WorkstationSeptember 21, 1994
Windows NT 3.51 WorkstationMay 30, 1995
Windows NT 4.0 WorkstationAugust 24, 1996
Windows 2000 ProfessionalFebruary 17, 2000

Microsoft Windows Server Operating Systems

Microsoft Operating System Release Date
Windows NT 3.1 Advanced ServerJuly 27, 1993
Windows NT 3.5 ServerSeptember 21, 1994
Windows NT 3.51 ServerMay 30, 1995
Windows NT 4.0 ServerAugust 24, 1996
Windows 2000 Server / DatacenterFebruary 17, 2000
Windows Server 2003April 24, 2003
Windows Server 2003 R2December 6, 2005
Windows Server 2008February 27, 2008
Windows Server 2008 R2October 22, 2009
Windows Server 2012September 4, 2012
Windows Server 2012 R2October 18, 2013
Windows Server 2016September 26, 2016
Windows Server 2019October 2, 2018

Supported platforms

In order to prevent Intel x86-specific code from slipping into the operating system by developers used to developing on x86 chips, Windows NT 3.1 was initially developed using non-x86 development systems and then ported to the x86 architecture. This work was initially based on the Intel i860-based Dazzle system and, later, the MIPS R4000-based Jazz platform. Both systems were designed internally at Microsoft.

Windows NT 3.1 was released for Intel x86 PC compatible, PC-98, DEC Alpha, and ARC-compliant MIPS platforms. Windows NT 3.51 added support for the PowerPC processor in 1995, specifically PReP-compliant systems such as the IBM Power Series desktops/laptops and Motorola PowerStack series; but despite meetings between Michael Spindler and Bill Gates, not on the Power Macintosh as the PReP compliant Power Macintosh project failed to ship.

Windows NT 4.0 was the last major release to support Alpha, MIPS, or PowerPC, though development of Windows 2000 for Alpha continued until August 1999, when Compaq stopped support for Windows NT on that architecture; and then three days later Microsoft also canceled their AlphaNT program, even though the Alpha NT 5 (Windows 2000) release had reached RC1 status.

The 64-bit versions of Windows NT were originally intended to run on Itanium and DEC Alpha; the latter was used internally at Microsoft during early development of 64-bit Windows. This continued for some time after Microsoft publicly announced that it was canceling plans to ship 64-bit Windows for Alpha.[51] Because of this, Alpha versions of Windows NT are 32-bit only.

While Windows 2000 only supports Intel IA-32 (32-bit), Windows XP, Server 2003, Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 each have one edition dedicated to Itanium-based systems. In comparison with Itanium, Microsoft adopted x64 on a greater scale: every version of Windows since Windows XP (which has a dedicated x64 edition), has x64 editions.

History of Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows was announced by Bill Gates on November 10, 1983. Microsoft introduced Windows as a graphical user interface for MS-DOS, which had been introduced a couple of years earlier. In the 1990s, the product line evolved from an operating environment into a fully complete, modern operating system over two lines of development, each with their own separate codebase.

The first versions of Windows (1.0 through to 3.11) were graphical shells that run from MS-DOS, later on, Windows 95, though still being based on MS-DOS, was its own operating system, using a 16-bit DOS-based kernel and a 32-bit user space. Windows 95 introduced many features that have been part of the product ever since, including the Start menu, the taskbar, and Windows Explorer (renamed File Explorer in Windows 8). In 1997, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 4 which included the (at the time) controversial Windows Desktop Update. It aimed to integrate Internet Explorer and the web into the user interface and also brought many new features into Windows, such as the ability to display JPEG images as the desktop wallpaper and single window navigation in Windows Explorer.

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