Windows 20th Anniversary Edition Revealed

Posted on August 25, 2021 by Stephen Chapman in Windows with 28 Comments

windows-20th-anniversary

For decades now, Microsoft has been exclusively releasing products unique to Japan — many of which I’ve personally tracked down, added to the ol’ collection, and plan to extensively detail right here on Thurrott!

For my inaugural post, and in light of the 20th anniversary of Windows XP, I’ve chosen a very special Japan-only release to cover. Unveiled in November 2005 in Tokyo by Steve Ballmer and subsequently released on December 9, 2005, this is the “Windows 20th Anniversary” release of Windows XP Professional! The name of the release could certainly be more confusing, but only just.

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Originally priced at around $230 USD at the time and limited to just 9,999 units, by today’s global population count, that means there’s only one per every ~790,000 people! Suffice it to say, this is an extremely rare Microsoft release that has undoubtedly flown beneath many a current reader’s radar. However, the box and its direct contents aren’t even the rarest aspect of the release!

“Yeah, yeah. That’s great and all, but what’s in the box, Stephen? The source code for Windows XP…or something?”

I’m glad you asked. Let’s open it up…

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The left-hand panel bears a history of Windows releases in the US and Japan (which was also posted to the Microsoft Japan promotional page at the time). On the right, a serial number and clear Windows flag offering a glimpse at the following.

Replica Discs

This folder contains a replica, gold-tinted CD set of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows ME.

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windows-20th-anniversary

Oddly, none of the discs contain their respective Windows releases. They’re mastered (likely done to prevent evildoer shenanigans), but curiously not emptily-mastered. They all contain the exact same audio file consisting of one tone that plays for just over one hour and 18 minutes. Steganographic Easter egg, or totally normal-and-boring CD mastering method?

Miniature Product Boxes

These miniature Windows product boxes that can be cut and folded into shape. All that’s missing is miniature contents for each release. Tiny CDs would have been awesome! (I’m only half-joking.)

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Collectible Stamps

This commemorative folder features a message from Bill Gates and ten Windows-related stamps issued by Japan Post. Stamp collectors rejoice! (Or grimace if you must have these now but can’t find them.)

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windows-20th-anniversary

Stickers

Also included is one sheet of seriously-shiny silver commemorative stickers. Many of the Japanese releases I’ve picked up feature stickers of some sort, so these go right along with that theme.

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Windows XP Professional SP2

What would a Windows 20th Anniversary Edition of Windows XP Professional be without a semi-confusing product name or an actual copy of XP? Yes, included is a full retail Japanese version of Windows XP Professional SP2.

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Documents, Etc.

Also included are the requisite documentation, product information, and special release instructions one might expect.

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Mail-In Coupon Bonuses

Remember how I said the box and its contents aren’t the rarest aspect of the release? Well, aside from the few lucky winners who won a trip to the Microsoft Redmond campus; the select dozens of winners who landed a coveted spot in the Windows Vista technical beta; the 300 or so folks who landed free swag at the launch event and online (like this hat); and the many who won a special frame (that I’ve yet to personally see) with which to house the replica discs, there’s this little coupon in each of the box flaps:

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For those who mailed that coupon to Microsoft Japan during the promotional period of 12/9/2005 – 4/30/2006, the result would be the following packet mailed back to them. In it, a DVD featuring a Japanese preview build of Windows Vista, and a CD containing a special Windows theme and a unique Windows commemorative video featuring Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Jim Allchin, Brian Valentine, and many others:

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windows-20th-anniversary

I’ve uploaded the video to YouTube as well. Here it is for your viewing pleasure!

Possibly the rarest item of all was one of 20 prized copies of Windows Vista signed by Bill Gates. I say “possibly” because I’ve not yet been able to confirm if those 20 were just plucked out of the 25,000 faux-Bill-Gates-signed Vista Ultimate Upgrade Signature Edition releases, or if they were uniquely signed for this specific giveaway. Occam’s razor has me leaning towards the former, but I’ll be sure to update this space accordingly if I ever find out for certain.

Windows 40th Anniversary Edition and Beyond?

What a fun boxed set, right? I would absolutely LOVE to see Microsoft do something like this again — even if it’s only really viable in Japan given its unique collector culture (both in general and where Microsoft products are concerned). Windows turns 40 in 2025, so between that and a bustling retro Microsoft scene that continues to swell, there’s almost certainly another opportunity like this for Microsoft to capitalize on.

Of final note, I’ve dumped all the discs from this release (sans the XP disc since it doesn’t differ from retail) to my library on Archive.org. I’ll eventually have everything from the release scanned and uploaded (documents, stamps, mini-boxes, etc.), but feel free to head on over now and futz with what’s currently available!

For bite-sized morsels of my collection and a sneak peek into some of what’s to come, you can follow me on Twitter at @beta_collector.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “Windows 20th Anniversary Edition Revealed”

  1. wright_is

    Well, that is a great start at Thurrott.com. I'm excited to see how you will top this...


    That is an amazing find.

    • Stephen Chapman

      Oh, man. This only the beginning! I'm super-excited for a lot of what I have planned for everyone. I fully expect to give even the most astute Microsoft historian a new takeaway or three. =)

  2. shindavid808

    Can someone reupload the files of the archive? It has been taken down...

  3. jimchamplin

    If you're able to find the GPS coordinates of where Microsoft buried the blibbett, you'll have proven yourself, grashopper! :D


    Great first article!

  4. justme

    That right there, thats awesome sauce. Superb read. I am looking forward to seeing how you follow this post.

  5. nerdile

    An amazing read, welcome aboard Stephen!

  6. skinnyjm

    Viewing the video and reliving all the hype and fanfare surrounding the release of Windows 95, people just don't get excited about software like that anymore, I kind of miss it.

    • Stephen Chapman

      Right!? I was talking about this the other day! All-digital certainly is convenient, even exciting at times, but nothing beats THAT level of excitement with this stuff. For me, it was during the Longhorn timeframe that I got to experience a fervor with Windows that I think could be most nearly compared to Windows 95 -- at least from an outsider's point of view since it became painfully apparent how much employees loathed working on Longhorn. Anyway, I'm rambling now, lol. Suffice it to say, I know *exactly* what you're talking about. I'm just sad that I wasn't into this stuff yet when Windows 95 launched, so I didn't get to live it.

  7. blue77star

    Windows 2000 Professional and Windows Vista are two of my favorite OS and the best OS Microsoft made.

  8. proftheory

    2025 isn't that End-of-Life for windows 10 also? Maybe a tie in? Maybe a fake copy of Windows 9?

    I ripped all my Windows disks to ISO including OS/2 Warp 3 "A better Windows than Windows"(tm)

  9. althalus

    Welcome on board Stephen ?

  10. solomonrex

    I'd love to have a collector's Windows 95 version of Windows 11 when it comes out. Start me up!

  11. wolters

    Wow...this is an awesome article and you are now my favorite Thurrott.com staff member ever...what a wonderfully fun and great article. So glad I am an Alpha Premium member.

  12. yb

    Steephan,

    Welcome! really interesting article;

    you are right about the collector's interest in Japan [and HK ].

    I have seen the sheet of postage stamps- those were in effect a marketing tool for the Japanese Postal authority:

    The stamp sheet was printed with blank labels attached to each stamp [the bit that reads Nippon, and the rate- 80], and then, for an additional fee, you could order any printed message or image you like to be produced on that label, it could be just one sheet [of 50] thus creating something really "rare" or in tens of thousands. that is what Microsoft did.




    • Stephen Chapman

      Neat! Thanks for the additional context! I've not been bitten by the stamp-collecting bug, but for those who have, I'm curious if these are noteworthy stamps to them. =)

  13. prichindel

    Wonderful article, Stephen, and welcome!


    Could you please share an image of the Special Windows theme you were talking about?


    Thank you!

    • Stephen Chapman

      I was going to do that, but I haven't set up an XP VM yet! When I do, though, I will certainly do so. I know some different sounds and a wallpaper were included. I'm not sure how much of the UI is or isn't different. This release holds mysteries even still. =)

  14. dmclaurin

    Loved this post! Totally unexpected :D

  15. MarkPow

    Excellent article Paul! (Just kidding, welcome Stephen - fantastic article, I love the thoughts that the makers of this put behind it - many thanks)

  16. vladimir

    Great article, thank you. I have a curiosity that maybe someone here can help answering. In the mid 90s I spent three months in Japan as an exchange medical student. When I was there I bought a laptop which was smaller and significantly cheaper than an equivalent in Europe. It came with windows 95 pre-installed in Japanese. When I went back home I was very disappointed to discover that I could not install the English version of windows on it because the hardware (maybe the boot loader?) was different. So I ended up using the laptop with the OS in Japanese until I couldn’t afford another one. Does anyone know why it was incompatible with the “normal” version of windows?

  17. LT1 Z51

    I used to save all my Windows CDs and boxes, the only one I cares to hang on to at this point it Windows NT 3.1, with all the floppies and the CD.


    But I do remember those Windows releases. Windows Me, ha, bring back my old saying "Windows Me because it hates You"

  18. jchampeau

    Great post! Welcome to the madness. :)

  19. safesax2002

    So cool! Thank for sharing Stephen!

  20. bettyblue

    IMHO, Windows XP, Server 2003 R2 and Office 2003 was the glory days of Microsoft. All of that software is lean and mean. It ran well, and was not crazy bloated. I have a friend that still uses Office 2003 and man it is just crazy fast on a modern computer.

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