Windows XP is a line of proprietary operating systems developed by Microsoft for use on general-purpose computer systems, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. The letters "XP" stand for eXPerience. Codenamed "Whistler" after Whistler, British Columbia, as many Microsoft employees skied at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort during its development, Windows XP is the successor to both Windows 2000 and Windows Me, and is the first consumer-oriented operating system produced by Microsoft to be built on the Windows NT kernel and architecture. Windows XP was first released on October 25, 2001, and over 400 million copies are in use, according to a January 2006 estimate by an IDC analyst. It is succeeded by Windows Vista, which was released to volume license customers on November 8, 2006, and worldwide to the general public on January 30, 2007.
The most common editions of the operating system are Windows XP Home Edition, which is targeted at home users, and Windows XP Professional, which has additional features such as support for Windows Server domains and dual processors, and is targeted at power users and business clients. Windows XP Media Center Edition has additional multimedia features enhancing the ability to record and watch TV shows, view DVD movies, and listen to music. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is designed to run the ink-aware Tablet PC platform. Two separate 64-bit versions of Windows XP were also released, Windows XP 64-bit Edition for IA-64 (Itanium) processors and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition for x86-64 processors.
Windows XP is known for its improved stability and efficiency over previous versions of Microsoft Windows. It presents a significantly redesigned graphical user interface, a change Microsoft promoted as more user-friendly than previous versions of Windows. New software management capabilities were introduced to avoid the "DLL hell" that plagued older consumer versions of Windows. It is also the first version of Windows to use product activation to combat software piracy, a restriction that did not sit well with some users and privacy advocates. Windows XP has also been criticized by some users for security vulnerabilities, tight integration of applications such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, and for aspects of its user interface.
Windows XP had been in development since early 1999, when Microsoft started working on Windows Neptune, an operating system intended to be the "Home Edition" equivalent to Windows 2000 Professional. It was eventually cancelled and became Whistler, which later became Windows XP. Many ideas from Neptune and Odyssey (another cancelled Windows version) were used in Windows XP.