The operating system first went on sale on October 25th, 2001. So it lasted with full support for nearly seven years: not bad for any software product but especially one from Microsoft, a company notorious for pushing updates on customers.
I was working at a Best Buy store when Windows XP was rolled out. Everyone associated with computers or media sales had to come in one Sunday morning prior to Windows XP's release for three hours of what I have since come to call "Microsoft religious indoctrination". We had to learn all about what Windows XP could do, what made it different from Windows Me and Windows 2000 Professional, all that jazz. I remember thinking at the time that this was so much ca-ca. That's not a knock on Best Buy at all: they're one of the best companies on the scene today. I just couldn't help but think that it was a little ridiculous to spend so much time being inculcated with the virtues of a bloody operating system...
(That I had to give up the weekend, which I could have spent driving down to Athens from Asheville to see Lisa, did not make me feel better about it either.)
And then sometime later, a few months before getting married, I wound up with Windows XP on my own system. And I promptly decided that the "indoctrination session" we'd been made to sit through was woefully unfair. That in fact, Windows XP was far better than Microsoft was making it out to be.
Windows XP was the most stable version of Windows that I've worked with since Windows 3.1 many moons ago. Not once did Windows XP crash on me or give me a reason to have to reboot. In fact, the only time that I lost any productivity with Windows XP came in January of 2003, and that was my own fault for failing to take precautions: a story that I was writing for the newspaper I was working at was lost because an ice storm knocked out the power and I hadn't saved it to disk. The next day I bought an un-interruptable power supply, and it hasn't happened again since.
And hey, it was Windows XP that I did my first forays into filmmaking. Now I'm working on Windows Vista and if it weren't for all the useless gimmicks like Aero being turned off, I wouldn't get any work done at all. Windows XP was not only stable, it was lean and mean. It respected its users enough to trust them with knowing whether or not something needed to be hogging precious resources. Let us hope that Microsoft has learned its lesson with Vista... but I cannot help but feel doubtful about that.
Anyway, let us raise a toast to Windows XP: the operating system that, whether it's widely appreciated or not, did most of the driving in this first decade of the new millennium.