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Windows XP and iPod: A tale of two birthdays

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What gave Windows XP legs?

Windows XP would have been just another Windows operating system, released, updated and sidelined by its successor, had it not been for fate. Windows XP was the first in a planned three-step roadmap of operating systems codenamed Whistler, Longhorn and Blackcomb. Longhorn became Windows Vista, but delays to Windows Vista gave Window XP an additional three years on desktops to become the de facto standard for business and consumer users.

What gave Windows XP legs? One was these delays to Windows Vista and the hostile reception it received. When Windows Vista eventually shipped in 2006 and 2007, customers and businesses preferred to stay with the past.

Another factor playing in Windows XP's favour were delayed upgrades to Windows XP from older versions of Windows. Businesses shied away from Windows XP after it joined Windows 2000 in being savaged by Nimda, Sasser and Blaster worms plus their derivations, mutations and other worms that exploited network holes to crash PCs and take over people's inboxes to propagate their payloads. It wasn't until the Windows XP Service Pack 2 in 2004 that businesses began to upgrade in numbers and with confidence.

The last thing that helped Windows XP was netbooks. Windows Vista demanded far too much memory and CPU for the average netbook at a time when netbooks were the popular portable form factor computing device before the iPad. More netbooks meant more room for Windows XP.

Despite its history, there's today no love at Microsoft for this long-lasting desktop veteran. It is vital to Microsoft's sales and growth that Windows XP stick-in-the-muds upgrade immediately, if not sooner, to Windows 7.

Windows XP is dead, and Microsoft wants you to move on to the successor to Windows Vista. Allchin, the man who lead Windows XP and Windows Vista, has also moved on – only in a different way. Allchin has left tech completely and is now re-inventing himself as a musician.

Ten years to the month after Windows XP launched, it has only just been overtaken by Windows 7 to become the world's most popular desktop operating system. Windows 7 is now has 40.18 per cent of the market, with Windows XP only just behind. The switch came a year after Microsoft released Windows 7.

Windows 7 won't match Windows XP for shelf life and the future is already calling time on Windows 7. It's not just that Windows 8 is already in the works, it's the fact Windows 8 will put Windows on ARM tablets for the first time, a huge departure that will stand out in the history of both Microsoft and of computing – and probably ensure that Windows 8 eclipses Windows 7.

Microsoft has also learned the mistakes of Windows XP. A former Microsoft insider working at the Windows group when Windows XP was being built and who wished to remain anonymous, tells The Reg that flags were already being raised on potential security problems before Windows XP shipped.

Windows XP fell initially because it combined a code for a desktop not built for networking and a server used to the serene world of the data centre rather than life on the wild, wild internet.

Our ex-Microsoft man tells us of Windows XP: "There were voices at Microsoft saying: 'You need to something about security', and they [management] said: 'We know what we are doing'. The people running Windows hadn't been though that thing before and they didn't listen. It was probably arrogance."

Just months after Windows XP, a humbled Bill Gates had announced the Trustworthy Computing initiative to shift from focusing on features to spotlighting security and privacy.

When it comes to music players, meanwhile, Microsoft has given up on the idea of beating the iPod with a Zune device, and is following Apple by putting its music player on a smartphone. In Microsoft's case, it's smartphones running Windows Phone.

As for Apple's iPod, it's not clear what happens next. With the latest iPod Touch, all that's changing is the version of iOS running inside and the – gasp – yes, addition of a white case. iPod sales are also spiking down, as Apple customers shift to the iPhone and iPad as a music-playing device.

Fadell, meanwhile, has long since left Apple and now turned his attention to smart thermostats. ®

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