20 Years Of Windows Releases

Take a trip down memory lane with Windows' best and worst moments.
Windows XP Media Center Edition

Windows XP MCE 2005, courtesy of Microsoft.
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Released in 2003, this OS enhanced normal XP functionality with a package of tools and applications designed to allow users to use their PCs as home theaters and stereos. The Media Center edition of Windows XP featured a separate interface that could be operated by remote, and included DVR support.

Many critics lauded the OS as an innovative concept; however, MCE suffered from numerous flaws, including poor stability, and it was widely panned.
Rating: 6

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
In 2004, Microsoft released a markedly improved version of the Media Center Edition OS that featured improved tuner support (including HDTV), better stability, and an improved interface. Media Center 2005 also supports Media Center Extenders, which allow users to stream and view content throughout their home.
Rating: 8

Windows XP Pro x64.
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Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
In a nutshell, this is Windows XP for 64-bit processors. Unfortunately, the lack of driver support and native 64-bit applications has made this OS of minimal value except as a source for bragging rights.
Rating: 5

You think this list is long?
We've detailed the most important versions of Microsoft's desktop- and server-oriented Windows launches. But this is just the tip of the OS iceberg. With the release of Windows NT 3.1, Microsoft began to release multiple products within each OS category. The goal was to provide more specific functionalities for certain corporate infrastructures.

Take a look at the different flavors of the current Windows releases:

Windows XP

  • Windows XP Home Edition
  • Windows XP Home Edition N (w/o Media Player, per EU mandate)
  • Windows XP Professional Edition
  • Windows XP Professional Edition N
  • Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
  • Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
  • Windows XP Embedded
  • Windows XP Starter System

    Windows Server 2003

  • Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition
  • Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition (32- and 64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition
  • Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
  • Windows Small Business Server 2003
  • Windows Storage Server 2003

    This pattern isn't likely to change for Windows' next release, known as Vista. Microsoft enthusiast sites anticipate that there will be seven to nine different iterations of Vista, including Home, Professional, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

  • Windows Vista Beta 1.
    Click image to enlarge.

    Future Windows Releases
    Windows Vista, Microsoft's next-gen desktop OS, is currently in early beta. Microsoft promises vastly improved performance, security, search, and interface functionality with this release. While it's too soon to grade Vista, the glimpses we've seen so far are encouraging.

    For more Vista coverage, see The Future Of Windows.

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    Editor's Choice
    Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
    Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
    Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
    John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
    Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
    Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing