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Windows 2000

Released somewhat simultaneous with the consumer-targeted Windows Me, Windows 2000 was a more successful update to Microsoft's corporate Windows track. The immediate successor to Windows NT (which by now was up to version 4.0), Windows 2000 was an evolution from the base NT platform, still targeting the corporate market.

Figure 9 Windows 2000—the successor to Windows NT for the corporate market

Unlike NT, which had just two versions (Workstation and Server), Windows 2000 came in five different versions: Professional, Server, Advanced Server, Datacenter Server, and Small Business Server. Interface-wise, all versions incorporated features from Windows 95/98, which made for a more sophisticated look and feel.

Windows XP

Windows' consumer and corporate tracks were joined with the 2001 release of Windows XP. This was the first version of Windows to bring corporate reliability to the consumer market—and consumer friendliness to the corporate market. XP blended the best of the Windows 95/98/Me line with the bulletproof 32-bit operation of Windows NT/2000, and threw in a revamped user interface, to boot. In essence, XP grafted the Windows 95/98/Me look and feel onto the NT/2000 core, doing away with the underlying DOS code base that had been present in previous consumer versions of Windows.

Figure 10 Windows XP—a now familiar look and feel

With Windows XP, Microsoft began to segment the market with several different versions, each with its own unique feature set. The different versions included XP Home Edition, XP Professional (for business users), XP Media Center Edition, XP Tablet PC Edition, and XP Starter Edition (for users in developing countries). Many users found this confusing, but Microsoft didn't seem to mind.

From the end user's standpoint, XP was a faster and better-looking version of Windows than either Windows 95/98 or Windows 2000. (It also was a lot more reliable than the failed Windows Me.) The newly animated Luna interface was much better looking and more user-friendly, and Fast User Switching enabled the same machine to be easily shared by several different users.

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