From the Editor
Before you get any further in this review, we'd like to note that reviewing an OS is no quick task! Most of you are interested in benchmarks - seeing how XP performs on different hardware platforms and against other operating systems. This of course is a daunting task, and in order to keep the review from becoming too bloated, the decision was made to separate that into a Windows XP Performance article. Please check it out!
The quick and the dead
Last week marked the beginning of Microsoft's largest product launch ever. Over 100 million dollars have been allocated to do one thing and one thing only - get you to buy Windows XP. Positioned as the all-in-one operating system (OS) for both home and business use, Windows XP combines all the benefits of past Microsoft OSes into one single package. Its goal is to bridge the gap between consumer and business OSes.
Ever since the release of Windows NT, the distance between workstations and desktops has been growing farther and farther apart. Because there is a need for reliability in the workstation and server markets, Windows NT was designed to provide just that and more. It would provide stability never-before witnessed on a Windows machine, and at the same time offer a user-friendly interface.
Where do you want to go today?
As time progressed, so did Windows NT. Microsoft made sure that its 32-bit wonder would penetrate not only the workstation markets but also the lucrative enterprise server market. Sure, other alternative solutions exist, but they require special personnel with the expertise to drive and maintain those solutions. One of the most well known operating systems for servers is the UNIX OS. Created by brain-child Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson, UNIX was premeditated to be the powerhouse of server OSes even while in its planning stages. And a powerhouse UNIX would become.
Then came along a man who thought "if they can do it, so can I", and conceived a UNIX-like OS for the masses. If you've heard the name Linus Torvalds, we're sure you can guess that the maverick OS he created is called Linux. A derivative of UNIX, Linux has all the power features and networking prowess as UNIX, but is easier to handle and maintain. The most important detail about Linux is its support for x86 processors. This is where Microsoft had to make its stake before risking the loss of potential market share.
On the consumer side, home users, gamers, and enthusiasts were reaping the harvest of Windows 9x. Microsoft had to make a tradeoff in stability to give these users what they wanted - performance and compatibility. Windows 95 came and introduced a radically new interface. Gone was the familiar Program Manager and in its place were Explorer and the new Start button. What really impressed everyone was Windows 95's support for hardware. No other OS in existence supported as much computer hardware as Windows 95. Since then, Windows continued to be the top tier hardware supporter. Needless to say, Windows also continues to be the number 1 OS for software support.
While Windows made waves with its support for hardware and software, doing so also left itseft open for problems. Because it's supporting enormous arrays of drivers, there is no possible way for Microsoft to validate every single piece of hardware and every application or game. Instead, Microsoft produces SDKs (software development kits) for developers that assist them in adhering to standards. Whether or not they comply with specifications or not is up to them. As most of you may or may not know, a misbehaving device driver can really wreak havoc on a system.
There are two distinct versions of Windows out on the market; Windows 9x is for the desktop and Windows NT/2000 for the workstations and servers. These two entities don't use the same driver model and Windows NT/2000 supports less hardware and software than Windows 9x does. As you can already tell, there's a discrepancy between OSes, and the users that use them. Microsoft realized that something needed to be done in order to close the gap before its audiences split off completely.