Microsoft Finally Retires Windows 3

Over a decade after it became unviable technologically, Microsoft finally retired Windows 3, the version of its OS that catapulted the software giant to fame, fortune, and industry prominence. Well, sort of. Microsoft had been offering the final version of the Windows 3 product line, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, to hardware vendors in the embedded market. And now, 15 years after its release, that aging system is finally being put to bed.

"Effective November 1, OEMs will no longer be able to license Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in the embedded channel," Microsoft's John Coyne noted in a blog post announcing the change a few months ago. "One of the unique things in the embedded business is that we allow the classic OS products to be sold longer than \[in\] the other channels. It's finally the end of an era."

Microsoft supported Windows for Workgroups on traditional PCs through 2001. The system featured a number of then-esoteric technologies that would become standard in future Windows versions, including 32-bit processor and file system modes, and the workgroup-type networking model that continues to this day. It could run on systems with components as lowly as a 10 MHz 8086 processor and 640K of RAM, though most PCs of the day were of the 286 variety. More recently, it's been used in such products as in-flight entertainment systems and cash registers.

Oddly enough, Windows for Workgroups outlasted its successor, Windows 95, which is credited for taking 32-bit computing mainstream. And if you're worried about the current Windows workhorse, XP, fear not. Microsoft has pledged to support that system for several more years as well.

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