Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems and environments developed and marketed by Microsoft Corporation. The first version of Windows was released in 1985 as a graphical user interface to MS-DOS, providing multiple document support, mouse support, drop down menus, and color video drivers. Later versions gradually replaced many of MS-DOS's built-in hardware functions with their own enhanced functions, until Windows fully assimilated MS-DOS and became a full-fledged operating system. Microsoft Windows is now often referred to as an integrated operating system due to the high level of integration between the core kernel functions and other Microsoft software such as Outlook, Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. Despite it's poor security record caused by this integration, Microsoft Windows is today the most widely used OS on personal home computers, laptop computers, and small business machines. The latest version, Windows Vista, was released in late 2006 to large businesses while the consumer version was delayed until early 2007.
As an integrated operating system, all Microsoft Windows versions come with preinstalled software that is ready to use upon installation. Basic text editors and calculators have been available since the first versions of Windows. Windows 98 added Media Player, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Windows Vista expands this with the Windows Mobility Center, Photo Gallery, DVD Maker, and the Linux-like Windows Sidebar. Vista is also the first version of Windows to have built-in security features. Although the second Windows XP service pack added a firewall and anti-virus monitoring service, Vista implements these features and more at the kernel level. Individual programs are 'sandboxed' and cannot access each other's memory. Critical drivers are executed in user mode, so crashes and malicious behavior cannot cause system-wide instability or security breaches. Even third-party anti-virus and anti-spyware software runs outside the kernel, further protecting it from bugs and backdoors in those programs.
In addition to the common desktop consumer versions of Microsoft Windows, Microsoft has released server, mobile, and embedded versions of the operating system. Windows Server System is a compete IT administration package that includes the Windows Server operating system, Updates Services, Storage Server, IIS webserver, Windows Media Services, and more. This package is intended for large organizations that must administer local area networks and integrate different types of computers for different purposes. Windows Mobile is a series of operating systems designed for PDA devices and smartphones. This is the only version of Windows to include any version of Microsoft Office bundled with the OS. Microsoft Windows Embedded is a relatively lightweight version of Windows custom tailored to the hardware on which it runs. While closely related to Windows Mobile, Windows Embedded is not targeted at consumer end-user devices. Rather, Windows Embedded is intended for use in portable medical equipment, industrial machinery, third-party automobile controllers, and similar job-specific applications.
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