It's (still) Windows 95's world. We just live in it.

From the Start menu and Taskbar to device autodetection and free, bundled Web browsers, here’s a brief history of how Windows 95 became the operating system that time never forgot

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Internet Explorer didn't technically ship with the initial consumer version of Windows 95; it came with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95, a separately sold add-on that many people coveted more for its desktop themes than its Internet tools. But most OEMs that shipped computers preinstalled with Windows 95 bundled Microsoft Plus! from the get-go, and soon it was a standard part of any Windows 95 install.

This was another instance of Windows 95 defining what we expected out of a computer: the idea that it wouldn't include a browser out of the box, for free, quickly became unthinkable, and this destroyed Netscape's entire business strategy. Even though it led to litigation, the world we live in now, in which even third-party browsers are free of charge as a matter of course, was created by Microsoft's Windows 95 plans.

The Mac again was a laggard in this regard, and after playing catch-up by briefly bundling Netscape Navigator, Apple eventually signed an agreement with its arch-nemesis in 1997 that saw Internet Explorer set as the Mac's bundled, default browser for the next five years. But this was part of a larger investment in Apple by Microsoft that, perversely, was specifically designed to prop up Redmond's long-time rival.

Bill Gates announces investment in Apple Jim Bourg/REUTERS

Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs (L) pauses in his keynote address at the Macworld Expo in Boston to allow Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (R) to address the crowd via satellite link, August 6, 1997. Jobs announced that Microsoft invested $150 million dollars in the company and agreed to a cooperative deal with its longtime rival. "We need all the help we can get," Jobs said to the crowd.

Which brings us to the final way in which we're living in Windows 95's world. It's easy to see our modern computers' genesis in Windows 95's UI or Internet capabilities. But 1995 was still full of the echoes of the previous computer age. Remember, the gaming platform DirectX was supposed to be luring developers away from was DOS. Commodore was still selling PCs. Computer labs across the country were still full of Apple II's. And IBM, still a poweful player in the PC industry, was pushing its own operating system, OS/2.

Windows 95 was a juggernaut that snuffed that world out for good. It "had a significant impact on the market by eliminating the use of MS-DOS and OS/2," says Thomas Koll, a former Microsoft executive who's now the CEO of software developer Laplink. By 1997, Windows 95's victory was so total that Microsoft was giving money to its competition just to avoid being deemed a monopoly by the government (as noted, it didn't work).

Today, Windows still has a better than 90 percent share of the desktop market. To defeat Windows 95 and its spiritual descendents, Microsoft's opponents had to invent whole new computing platforms. The PC, unsexy commodity though it may be, is still Microsoft's kingdom.

This story, "It's (still) Windows 95's world. We just live in it." was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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