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A quick look back at the launch of Windows 2000 24 years ago today

windows 2000

Microsoft's Windows business was at something of a crossroads near the end of the 20th century in terms of its software development. The company was releasing consumer versions of Windows with its support for legacy MS-DOS apps like Windows 98, while its Windows NT OS platform was made for businesses with its 32-bit Windows NT 4.0 architecture.

The original plan was to launch Windows operating systems in 2000 so both the consumer and business versions would be based on the same Windows NT kernel. However, that didn't happen because the consumer Windows team was not able to get that working.

As Paul Thurrott wrote on his Supersite for Windows website, then Microsoft president Steve Ballmer announced on April 7, 1999, that Microsoft would release a final consumer Windows that would be an update from Windows 98. That OS would later launch as Windows Millenium Edition, better known as Windows Me, in September of 2000.

That meant businesses who wanted a new version of Windows with the NT kernel would be getting an update from Windows NT 4.0, Originally the name of that OS would be Windows NT 5.0. However, Microsoft decided to name it as Windows 2000. That OS launched 24 years ago today, on February 17, 2000.

windows 2000

Even though Windows 2000 was made for business users, Microsoft made an effort to add some of the features that were included in the consumer Windows 98 operating system. The archived Microsoft webpage that revealed the features of Windows 2000 Pro showed that it added support for Internet Explorer 5 and later IE 6, along with Windows Media Player, Outlook Express, the Windows Desktop Update feature, and more.

It also added Plug and Play support for better access to printers and other accessories. It supported DirectX, which meant that it could run high-end Windows games of that time. Windows 2000, with no legacy MS-DOS support, was also far more stable than the consumer Windows Me. In Microsoft's official press release announcing the launch of Windows 2000 24 years ago today, the company hyped up the reliability of the OS based on tests run by Ziff-Davis Labs:

According to the test, with constant and intense use in the 90 workdays that Ziff-Davis Labs ran the test, Windows 2000 never failed. In comparison, Windows 95 had to be rebooted every 2.1 days and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 had to be rebooted every 5.2 days.

One quick aside: The press release mentions that the launch of Windows 2000 on that date included a presentation from none other than actor Sir Patrick Stewart. Microsoft's press release stated he used a massive 40-foot laptop during the event. We have been unable to find a video of this presentation. If someone out there knows where it is located, please let us know in the comments.

The price of Windows 2000 Professional, the desktop version of the OS, was $319 (about $545 in today's dollars). As CNET reported at the time, Microsoft also let people who used the consumer-based Windows 95 or 98 an upgrade path to Windows 2000 for $219, which was a first for the company.

There were four versions of Windows 2000 released. The Professional version was the most popular but Microsoft also released Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server on Feb 17, 2000. A fourth version, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, became available several months later on September 26, 2000.

Microsoft finally merged their consumer and business Windows operating systems under the NT kernel less than two years after the release of Windows 2000 with Windows XP. However, Windows 2000 was supported with four service packs over the next several years. It reached the end of its support life in July 2010. In the end, it served its purpose as a kind of transition from the Windows NT era to Windows XP and beyond.

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