Microsoft's Windows XP is 10 years old.
In human terms, 10 years is nothing; a child that age is regarded as little more than a tadpole. In software terms, 10 years makes Windows XP the operating system equivalent of Lee Marvin: grizzled, wrinkled and (thanks to countless patches and updates) tougher than a stick of stale beef jerky. Unlike Lee Marvin, Windows XP is still alive, something that Microsoft desperately wants to change.
Windows XP arrived on shelves in October 2001. Within a few years, it operated on a dominating share of PCs. Its successor, Windows Vista, failed to eclipse that market position. Windows 7, the successor to Vista, seems on track to take Windows XP's place as the most-used operating system, but the transition is taking some time.
According to analytics Website Net Applications, Windows XP holds 47.29 percent of the market, followed by Windows 7 with 30.36 percent, Windows Vista with 8.51 percent and Mac OS X 10.6 with 3.31 percent.
Statistics offered by StatCounter, however, offer a somewhat different story: Windows 7 ascendant with 40.39 percent of the market, followed by Windows XP with 38.54 percent, Windows Vista with 11.19 percent, and Mac OS X with 7.19 percent.
After a decade in the wild, Windows XP is stable and patched, with an interface and applications familiar to virtually anyone who's ever worked with computers on a daily basis. However, Microsoft depends on continuous revenue from its Windows and Windows Live division to hydrate its overall balance sheet. That means encouraging consumers and businesses to abandon Windows XP in favor of Windows 7, which offers a shinier interface and new features.
Signs of Microsoft's desire to wipe out Windows XP are legion. The Microsoft Download Center offers a Windows XP End of Support Countdown Gadget, which ticks off the days until the operating system's official support ends in 2014. The company's latest browser, Internet Explorer 9, won't run on XP.
Windows 7 has sold more than 450 million licenses since its October 2009 release. Microsoft has similarly high hopes for the next version of its operating system franchise, code-named Windows 8. In addition to the desktop and taskbar that defined so many previous Windows releases, the upcoming version also relies on a set of color tiles designed to be equally tablet- and PC-friendly: Microsoft's way of not only keeping its hold on the traditional PC market, but also making inroads against the Apple iPad.