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.
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…
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.
This folder contains a replica, gold-tinted CD set of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows ME.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
Also included are the requisite documentation, product information, and special release instructions one might expect.
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:
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:
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.