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2000: The antitrust trial sets the background
The antitrust case brought by the United States government against Microsoft was filed in 1998. In mid-2000, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled against the company and ordered that it be broken up. An appeals court upheld the verdict but reversed the penalty portion a year later and handed the case to a new judge. Days after Windows XP shipped, the company agreed to settle the case. The resulting consent decree influenced the development of Windows for the next decade.
For details, see "How a decade of antitrust oversight has changed your PC."
2001: Windows XP ships
The revolutionary part of Windows XP was that it unified the business and consumer versions of Windows in a single product. The Windows NT kernel replaced the old DOS-plus-Windows hybrid that had been used in Windows 95, Windows 98, and the ill-fated Windows Millennium Edition. Business users who had adopted the NT-based Windows 2000 a year earlier saw the garish new XP interface, which was widely panned for its "Fisher-Price" appearance. In its first year on the market, XP was far from successful, with less than 10 percent of the installed base upgrading in that first year.
XP's launch event took place in a somber New York City, the month after the 9/11 attacks.