Microsoft Windows(or simplyWindows) is ametafamilyofgraphicaloperating systemsdeveloped, marketed, and sold byMicrosoft. It consists of several families of operating systems, each of which cater to a certain sector of the computing industry with theOStypically associated withIBM PC compatiblearchitecture. Active Windows families includeWindows NT,Windows EmbeddedandWindows Phone; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g.Windows Embedded Compact(Windows CE)orWindowsServer. Defunct Windows families includeWindows 9x;Windows 10 Mobileis an active product, unrelated to the defunctamilyWindows Mobile.
Microsoft introduced anoperating environmentnamedWindowson November 20, 1985, as a graphicaloperating system shellforMS-DOSin response to the growing interest ingraphical user interfaces(GUIs).]Microsoft Windows cametodominatethe world’spersonal computer(PC) market withover 90% market share, overtakingMac OS, which had been introduced in 1984.Applecame to see Windows as an unfair encroachment on their innovation in GUI development as implemented on products such as theLisaandMacintosh(eventually settled in court in Microsoft’s favor in 1993). On PCs, Windows is still the most popular operating system. However, in 2014, Microsoft admitted losing the majority of the overall operating system market toAndroid,because of the massive growth in sales of Androidsmartphones. In 2014, the number of Windows devices sold were less than 25% of Android devices sold. This comparisons, however, may not be fully relevant as the two operating systems traditionally targeted different platforms.
As of September 2016, the most recent version of Windows for PCs,tablets,smartphonesandembedded devicesisWindows 10. The most recent versions forserver computersisWindows Server 2016. A specialized version of Windows runs ontheXboxOnegame console.
Windows OS,computeroperating system(OS) developed by Microsoft Corporationto runpersonal computers(PCs). Featuring the first HYPERLINK “https://www.britannica.com/technology/graphical-user-interface” graphical user interface(GUI) forIBM-compatible PCs, the Windows OS soon dominated the PC market. Approximately 90 percent of PCs run some version of Windows.
The first version of Windows, released in 1985, was simply a GUI offered as an extension of Microsoft’s existing disk operating system, or HYPERLINK “https://www.britannica.com/technology/MS-DOS” MS-DOS. Based in part on licensed concepts thatApple Inc.had used for its Macintosh System Software, Windows for the first time allowed DOS users to visually navigate a virtual desktop, opening graphical “windows” displaying the contents of electronic folders and files with the click of a mousebutton, rather than typing commands and directory paths at a text prompt.
Subsequent versions introduced greater functionality, including native Windows File Manager, Program Manager, and Print Manager programs, and a more dynamicinterface. Microsoft also developed specialized Windows packages, including the networkable Windows for Workgroups and the high-powered Windows NT, aimed at businesses. The 1995 consumer release Windows 95 fully integrated Windows and DOS and offered built-inInternetsupport, including theWorld Wide Webbrowser Internet Explorer.
With the 2001 release of HYPERLINK “https://www.britannica.com/topic/Windows-XP” Windows XP, Microsoft united its various Windows packages under a single banner, offering multiple editions for consumers, businesses, multimedia developers, and others. Windows XP abandoned the long-used Windows 95 kernel (core software code) for a more powerful code base and offered a more practical interface and improved application and memory management. The highly successful XP standard was succeeded in late 2006 byWindows Vista, which experienced a troubled rollout and met with considerable marketplace resistance, quickly acquiring a reputation for being a large, slow, and resource-consuming system. Responding to Vista’s disappointing adoption rate, Microsoft developed HYPERLINK “https://www.britannica.com/topic/Windows-7” Windows 7, an OS whose interface was similar to that of Vista but was met with enthusiasm for its noticeable speed improvement and its modest system requirements.