Windows version 3.0 was released in 1990, the first edition to reach commercial success by selling two million copies within its first six months. This version included numerous improvements to the user interface along with new multitasking capabilities. Version 3.1 offered a facelift and was made available in March, 1992.
The Windows NT operating system was released in July of 1993. This version was based on a new kernel and it was considered to be the first designed for a professional platform. NT was later upgraded to function as a home user operating system with the release of Windows XP.
In August of 1995, Windows 95 was released. This operating system offered a consumer solution with significant changes to the user interface that also utilized preemptive multitasking. Windows 95 was introduced to replace version 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups as well as MS-DOS. The first Microsoft operating system to use the plug and play system, Windows 95 revolutionized the desktop platform and achieved mass popularity.
Next up was Windows 98, released in June of 1998. This operating system was criticized for being slower and less reliable than version 95. Many of those issues were addressed a year later with the unveiling of Windows 98 Second Edition
Microsoft continued their line of professional operating systems with Windows 2000 in February of 2000. The consumer version was released as Windows ME in September of that year. ME integrated several new technologies, most notably the Universal Plug and Play.
Windows XP was released in October 2001. This version was based on the NT kernel and managed to retain the extreme functionality of its home-based predecessors. XP was widely embraced by the public and came in two different editions: Home and Professional. The Home Edition provided exceptionable multimedia support while the Professional edition offered excellent security and networking capabilities. XP has since been succeeded by Vista but support will continue through April of 2009.
The Microsoft operating system received a tremendous upgrade with Windows Vista on January 30, 2007. This version includes several new features with an emphasis on security. Vista offers an improved shell design and user interface along with numerous technical modifications. Despite its functionality, Windows Vista has received criticism