Microsoft passed a milestone Wednesday as Windows XP reached its tenth anniversary. The OS was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, two months before it reached stores October 25 that year. It quickly became the most popular Microsoft OS and to date has sold hundreds of millions of copies.
The OS ultimately led to some of Microsoft's biggest missteps in the last decade. A lax attitude towards Internet security in XP resulted in worms like Blaster spreading rapidly enough that, in some cases, it took just a matter of minutes for a 'naked' Windows PC to be infected without doing anything online. Microsoft not only had to significantly rethink XP's security model in Service Pack 2 but ended up reworking much of what became Windows Vista to tighten security.
The move ended up giving Apple a chance to gain share and was compounded when many of Vista's security measures, like User Account Control, quickly became infamous and led to lost sales.
Microsoft didn't end up fully addressing Vista's problems until Windows 7 shipped two years ago and, as a consequence, spurred many to hold off on Vista entirely and to this day hold off on a new release. According to NetApplications data, just under 50 percent of active PCs are still using the 10-year-old OS. Both the reputation and corporate buyers' worries about app compatibility have led to many holding off as long as possible.
At the time XP was released, Microsoft was at the height of its monopoly and had yet to face the full consequences of US and antitrust cases. Policies in the OS that locked out competition in browsers and media players led to $1.4 billion in European fines as well as forced policy changes around the world.
Today, Microsoft is still the dominant force on the desktop, but it has lost enough share that its often-repeated 95 percent share has dropped to under 88 percent. The desktop is also no longer the centerpiece of technology: hundreds of millions of smartphones are expected to ship in 2011. Mobile tablets, though young, have been popular enough to make HP consider quitting PCs when it was the cornerstone of the computer world during XP's heyday.