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Windows XP has been released in several editions since its original release in 2001.
(original box, version 2002)
(updated cover box,
includes Service Pack 2 update)
The first two editions released by Microsoft are Windows XP Home Edition, designed for home users, and Windows XP Professional, designed for business and power users.
Windows XP Professional offers a number of features unavailable in the Home Edition, including:
In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft €497million (£395 million or US$784 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". After unsuccessful appeals in 2004 and 2005, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N. This version does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to pick and download their own media player. Microsoft wanted to call this version Reduced Media Edition, but EU regulators objected and suggested the Edition N name, with the N signifying "not with Media Player" for both Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Because it is sold at the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens have chosen not to stock the product. However, Dell did offer the operating system for a short time. Consumer interest has been low, with roughly 1,500 units shipped to OEMs, and no reported sales to consumers.
In December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Like the European Commission decision, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market.
The K and KN editions of Windows XP Home Edition and Professional Edition were released in August 2006, and are only available in English and Korean. Both editions contain links to third-party instant messenger and media player software.
This edition of Windows XP Home is intended for sale with certain "low-cost" netbooks and will appear labeled as "Windows XP Home Edition ULCPC" (with "ULCPC" standing for "ultra low cost personal computer").
Windows XP Starter Edition is a lower-cost version of Windows XP available in Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay, Malaysia, and Venezuela. It is similar to Windows XP Home, but is limited to low-end hardware, can only run 3 programs at a time, and has some other features either removed or disabled by default.
According to a Microsoft press release, Windows XP Starter Edition is "a low-cost introduction to the Microsoft Windows XP operating system designed for first-time desktop PC users in developing countries."
The Starter Edition includes some special features for certain markets where consumers may not be computer literate. Not found in the Home Edition, these include localised help features for those who may not speak English, a country-specific computer wallpaper and screensavers, and other default settings designed for easier use than typical Windows XP installations. The Malaysian version, for example, contains a desktop background of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.
In addition, the Starter Edition also has some unique limitations to prevent it from displacing more expensive versions of Windows XP. Only three applications can be run at once on the Starter Edition, and each application may open a maximum of three windows. The maximum screen resolution is 1024×768, and there is no support for workgroup networking or domains. In addition, the Starter Edition is licensed only for low-end processors like Intel's Celeron or AMD's Duron and Sempron. There is also a 512 MB limit on main memory and a 120 GB disk size limit. Microsoft has not made it clear, however, if this is for total disk space, per partition, or per disk. There are also fewer options for customizing the themes, desktop, and taskbar.
On October 9, 2006, Microsoft announced that they reached a milestone of 1,000,000 units of Windows XP Starter Edition sold. In the mass market, however, the Starter Edition has not had much success. In many markets where it is available, cracked or pirated versions of higher end versions of Windows are more popular than their legal counterparts. In these markets, cracked or pirated software such as XP Professional can be obtained at a mall. These stores typically charge only for the amount of CDs/DVDs the software takes up, not the actual retail value. Pirated copies of Windows XP Professional typically costs $0.70 USD (only uses 1 CD) compared around $30 USD for a properly licensed copy of XP Starter.
This edition, which was code-named "Freestyle" during its development, was first released in September 2002. The initial release was available solely in conjunction with computers that included media center capabilities, and could not be purchased separately. The first major update was released in 2004 and distributed by Tier 1 OEMs who had previously sold Windows XP Media Center Edition PC, and then updated again in 2005, which was the first edition available for System Builders. Many of the features of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (including screen dancers, auto playlist DJ, and high end visual screen savers) were taken from the Windows XP Plus! packages. These were originally shipped as add ons to Windows XP to enhance the users experience of their Windows XP machine.
A preview version of Windows XP Media Center Edition from Microsoft's eHome division, was shown as CES 2002, with the final version released later that year. 
After the 2005 release, Microsoft focused their efforts on building new media center features into Windows Vista's "Home Premium" and "Ultimate" editions, which, unlike the releases of Windows XP Media Center Edition, are available for retail purchase without the necessary hardware.
The most notable feature unique to this edition is the Windows Media Center, which provides a large-font, remotely accessible interface ("10-foot user interface") for television viewing on the computer as well as recording and playback, a TV guide, DVD playback, video playback, photo viewing, and music playback. Unlike competing commercial digital video recorder products, Microsoft does not charge a monthly subscription fee for its Media Center TV guide service.
Due to strict hardware requirements, Microsoft did not sell Media Center Edition in retail markets alongside the Home and Professional editions. Microsoft only distributes it to MSDN subscribers and OEM System Builders in certain countries. Consumers generally purchase Media Center preinstalled on a new computer, or from a reseller that sells OEM versions of Microsoft software.
Media Center Edition was the only consumer-oriented edition of Windows XP that was updated with new features on an annual basis during the five-year development of Windows Vista. The MCE 2005 release, for example, includes an update to Windows Movie Maker that supports burning DVDs, a new visual style called "Royale", support for Media Center Extenders, and SoundSpectrum's G-Force sound visualizations. Microsoft also released its own remote control, receiver and infrared blaster with MCE 2005. A new specially designed wireless computer keyboard for MCE 2005 was released September 2005.
Media Center Edition retains most of the features included in Windows XP Professional as it is simply an addon to Professional, installed when provided with a valid MCE product key during setup. All Professional features have been left in, including Remote Desktop and the Encrypting File System, however the ability to join an Active Directory domain has been removed as it is marketed as a home product with no need for domain support. One value in the registry is all that is needed to circumvent this restriction; if the installation of MCE 2005 is an in-place upgrade from a previous version already joined to a domain, this ability is retained, unless a user uses a Windows Media Center Extender: in this case, such ability is lost and cannot be restored. Presumably, Microsoft introduced this limit because Media Center Extender devices, introduced in this version, rely on the Fast User Switching component, but this component must be disabled in order to join a domain.
Media Center has higher hardware requirements than other editions of Windows XP. MCE 2005 requires at least a 1.6 GHz processor, DirectX 9.0 hardware-accelerated GPU (ATI Radeon 9 series or nVidia GeForce FX Series or higher), and 256 MB of system RAM. Some functionality, such as Media Center Extender support, use of multiple tuners, or HDTV playback/recording carries higher system requirements.
Media Center is much more restricted in the range of hardware that it supports than most other software DVR solutions. Media Center tuners must have a standardized driver interface, and they (originally) required a hardware MPEG-2 encoder, closed caption support, and a number of other features. Media Center remote controls are standardized in terms of button labels and functionality, and, to a degree, general layout.
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This edition is intended for specially designed notebook/laptop computers called tablet PCs. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is compatible with a pen-sensitive screen, supporting handwritten notes and portrait-oriented screens. Initially, a retail version could not be purchased separately from a tablet PC, but in August 2004 it became universally available at no cost as part of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. Unlike Windows XP Media Center Edition which is not available in a retail or volume license form, a volume license version was also made available.
Tablet PC Edition is a superset of Windows XP Professional, the difference being tablet functionality, including alternate text input (Tablet PC Input Panel) and basic drivers for support of tablet PC specific hardware. Requirements to install Tablet PC Edition include a tablet digitizer or touchscreen device, and hardware control buttons including a Ctrl-Alt-Delete shortcut button, scrolling buttons, and at least one user-configurable application button.
There have been two releases:
Service Pack 2 for Windows XP includes Tablet PC Edition 2005 and is a free upgrade. This version brought improved handwriting recognition and improved the Input Panel, allowing it to be used in almost every application. The Input Panel was also revised to extend speech recognition services (input and correction) to other applications.
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is based on Windows XP Professional and includes all the software features provided in it. In addition, it includes some of the following components:
The following downloadable packs released by Microsoft add more functionality:
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition utilizes the Ink object as a means of data input and storage. This is a data type created as part of the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition API that allows users to manipulate and process handwritten data, including recognition results and, in some cases, the pressure information for each part of the stroke. Properties of Ink can be changed in much the same way as properties of other objects, and the data can be saved to allow future reference. Many applications referencing the Ink object also allow handwritten notes to be filtered and searched through, based on the recognition results stored when Ink is saved.
Integrated with the operating system is a Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP) which allows handwriting to be converted into text for use in most non-full-screen applications. The integrated handwriting recognition in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 can recognize print, cursive, or mixed writing. Accuracy can be increased by configuring the recognizer to expect left-handed writing or right-handed writing. Recognition in a variety of languages is available with the install of a recognizer pack. The handwriting engine cannot be trained to recognize a particular handwriting style, so the user must modify their handwriting to be better recognized by the system in order to use this feature effectively.
Speech recognition functionality is also incorporated into the Tablet Input Panel. Compared to previous versions, a substantially improved speech recognition engine version 6 (which also ships with Office 2003) and a tutorial, microphone wizard and training modules are included. It is possible to dictate text using speech in certain supported applications and control the Windows GUI and applications using speech, although the accuracy improvements further made in Windows Vista surpass these features. An update for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition containing Ink Analysis and StylusInput API support introduced in Windows Vista is also available.
In 2006, Microsoft made available two additional editions of Windows XP Home Edition for hardware manufacturers that wanted to provide subscription-based or pay as you go-based[clarification needed Link to correct article] models for selling computers. These editions, named Windows XP Home Edition for Subscription Computers, and Windows XP Home Edition for Prepaid Computers respectively, are part of the "Microsoft FlexGo" initiative, described in a company-issued press release as, "[making] PCs more accessible by dramatically reducing the entry cost and enabling customers to pay for their computer as they use it, through the purchase of prepaid cards. Market trials are starting first in emerging markets where inadequate access to consumer credit, unpredictable income and high entry costs prevent many consumers from purchasing a computer." These editions were targeted towards emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Hungary and Vietnam.
Both editions contain additional components that enforce the subscription models via metering. The metering is typically enforced with a hardware component to prevent tampering. The installation of Windows operates in "normal mode", "Limited Access Mode", or "Hardware Locked Mode" depending on the state of the subscription. When a computer has a positive time balance, it operates in "normal mode" and functions as a regular Windows XP Home Edition machine. When the time balance expires, the machine will then operate in "Limited Access Mode" for an amount of time set by the hardware manufacturer (five hours by default) before entering "Hardware Locked Mode". In Limited Access Mode, the screen uses high-contrast and low-resolution display settings, and in Hardware Locked Mode, the operating system is disabled entirely, and a message is displayed on boot-up with instructions on how to re-enable the machine.
Two distinct editions of Windows XP were released to support 64-bit hardware.
Two versions of Windows XP 64-Bit Edition were released:
This edition was discontinued in early 2005, after Hewlett Packard, the last distributor of Itanium-based workstations, stopped selling Itanium systems marketed as 'workstations'. As of July 2005, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition is no longer supported, and no further security updates were made available.
Windows XP 64-Bit Edition was not marketed as the Itanium version of Microsoft's other Windows XP editions but was a separate edition made solely for the Itanium processor and its 64-bit instructions. It is mostly analogous to Windows XP Professional, but numerous older technologies such as DAO, Jet database, NTVDM and Windows on Windows are no longer present so support for MS-DOS and Win16 applications is absent. The original version also lacks most media applications such as Windows Media Player, NetMeeting, Windows Movie Maker, and integrated CD burning, although WMP and NetMeeting were added in the 2003 version.
Similar to the ability of previous alternate architecture ports of Windows (Windows NT 4.0 for PowerPC, MIPS R4x00, and Alpha) to run 16-bit x86 code via Windows on Windows, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition can run standard x86 32-bit applications through its WOW64 (Windows-on-Windows 64-bit) emulation layer. While the original Itanium processor contains an on-chip IA-32 decoder, it was deemed far too slow for serious use (running at about 400 MHz), so Microsoft and Intel wrote a software 32 to 64-bit translator dubbed the IA-32 Execution Layer. It allows real time translation of x86 32-bit instructions into IA-64 instructions, allowing 32-bit applications to run (albeit significantly more slowly than native code).
This edition supports the x86-64 extension of the Intel IA-32 architecture. x86-64 is implemented by AMD as "AMD64", found in AMD's Opteron, Athlon 64 chips (and in select Sempron processors), and implemented by Intel as "Intel 64" (formerly known as IA-32e and EM64T), found in some of Intel's Pentium 4 and most of Intel's later chips. It was released on April 25, 2005.
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition uses version 5.2.3790.1830 of core operating system binaries, the same version used by Windows Server 2003 SP1 as they were the latest versions during the operating system's development. Even service packs and updates for Windows XP x64 and Windows Server 2003 x64 are distributed in unified packages, much in the manner as Windows 2000 Professional and Server editions for x86.
During the initial development phases (2003–2004), Windows XP Professional x64 Edition was named Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for x86 Extended Systems and later, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for Extended Systems, as opposed to 64-Bit Edition for Itanium Systems.
There are some common issues that arise with Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
The RTM version of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition is based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 codebase. For the same reason, Service Pack 2 for Windows XP x64 Edition, released on the March 13, 2007, is not the same as Service Pack 2 for 32-bit versions of Windows XP. In fact, due to the earlier release date of the 32-bit version, many of the key features introduced by Service Pack 2 for 32-bit (x86) editions of Windows XP were already present in the RTM version of its 64-bit (x86-64) counterpart. Service Pack 2 is the first and last released service pack for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition uses a technology named Windows-on-Windows 64-bit (WOW64), which permits the execution of 32-bit x86 applications. It was first employed in Windows XP 64-Bit Edition (for the Itanium), but then reused for the “x64 Editions” of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Since the x86-64 architecture includes hardware-level support for 32-bit instructions, WOW64 switches the processor between 32- and 64-bit modes. According to Microsoft, 32-bit software running under WOW64 has a similar performance when executing under 32-bit Windows, but with less threads possible and other overheads. All 32-bit processes are shown with *32 in the task manager, while 64-bit processes have no extra text present.
Although 32-bit applications can be run transparently, the mixing of the two types of code within the same process is not allowed. A 64-bit application cannot link against a 32-bit library (DLL) and, similarly, a 32-bit application cannot link against a 64-bit library. This may lead to the need for library developers to provide both 32- and 64-bit binary versions of their libraries. Windows XP x64 Edition includes both 32- and 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer 6, in order to allow for the possibility that some third-party browser plugins or ActiveX controls may not yet be available in 64-bit versions.
Older 32-bit drivers and services are not supported by 64-bit Windows, but video and audio codecs such as XviD or OggDS (which are 32-bit DLLs), are supported as long as the media player that uses them is 32-bit as well.
The primary benefit of moving to 64-bit is the increase in the maximum allocatable virtual memory. A single standard process on a 32-bit Windows operating system is limited to a total of 2,093,056 kilobytes (2 GB minus one 4 KB page), while large address aware  32-bit processes can allocate up to 4 GB. Windows XP x64 can support much more memory; although the theoretical memory limit a 64-bit computer can address is about 16 exabytes, Windows XP x64 is limited to 128 GB of physical memory and 8 terabytes of virtual memory per process while the practical limit is usually the size of the pagefile.
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows XP 64-bit Edition Version 2003 are the only releases of Windows XP to include Internet Information Services 6.0, which matches the version shipped with Windows Server 2003; other versions of XP include 5.1. 64-bit versions of Windows XP are also immune to certain types of viruses and malware that target 32-bit systems, since most system files are 64-bit. The extra registers of the x86-64 architecture can result in performance improvements in certain kinds of applications, but more often than not, will result in a slight decrease in performance when compared to the same application implemented in 32 bit x86 code running on Windows XP 32 bit editions.
Microsoft has released three editions of Windows XP that are targeted towards developers of embedded devices, for use in specific consumer electronics, set-top boxes, kiosks/ATMs, medical devices, arcade video games, point-of-sale terminals, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) components.
Windows XP for Embedded Systems is an edition of Windows XP that contains the full feature set of Windows XP Professional, but has restrictions on licensing that require the resulting device to boot directly into the original equipment manufacturer's application.
As of April 2008, this edition is marketed as part of the "Windows Embedded Enterprise" brand, which includes both this release and its successor, Windows Vista for Embedded Systems.
Windows XP Embedded, commonly abbreviated "XPe", is a componentized version of the Professional edition of Windows XP. An original equipment manufacturer is free to choose only the components needed thereby reducing operating system footprint and also reducing attack area as compared with XP Professional. Unlike Windows CE, Microsoft's operating system for portable devices and consumer electronics, XP Embedded provides the full Windows API, and support for the full range of applications and device drivers written for Microsoft Windows. The system requirements state that XPe can run on devices with at least 32 MB Compact Flash, 32 MB RAM and a P-200 microprocessor. XPe was released on November 28, 2001. As of October 2008, the newest release is Windows XP Embedded Service Pack 3.
The devices targeted for XPe have included automatic teller machines, arcade games, slot machines, cash registers, industrial robotics, thin clients, set-top boxes, network attached storage (NAS), time clocks, navigation devices, railroad locomotives, etc. Custom versions of the OS can be deployed onto anything but a full-fledged PC; even though XPe supports the same hardware that XP Professional supports (x86 architecture), licensing restrictions prevent it from being deployed on to standard PCs. However, Microsoft has made some exceptions to this rule, allowing XPe alongside a standard OEM install of Windows. Some Dell notebooks contain an embedded XP installation as part of the MediaDirect 2.0 feature, and they were also found on some Acer ones as well as the Samsung Q1.
Windows Embedded Standard 2009 succeeded XPe in 2H 2008. Windows Embedded Standard 2009 is derived from Windows XP Embedded since Microsoft at the time of its development did not have a componentized version of Windows Vista. Windows Embedded Standard 2009 includes Silverlight, .NET Framework 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, RDP 6.1, Network Access Protection, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and support for being managed by Windows Server Update Services and System Center Configuration Manager.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 has succeeded Windows Embedded 2009 in April 2010 and is a componentized version of Windows 7.
Windows Embedded for Point of Service is a specialization of Windows XP Embedded. It was released on May 25, 2005, and focuses on the point of sale device market, such as fuel pumps, self checkout stations, automated teller machines and cash registers. It is not available for purchase directly from Microsoft, but is instead licensed to original equipment manufacturers.
In July 2006, Microsoft introduced a "thin-client" variant of Windows XP Embedded called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which targets older machines (as early as the original Pentium). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. It is intended for those who would like to upgrade to Windows XP to take advantage of its security and management capabilities, but cannot afford to purchase new hardware.