Anything prior to XP is now AGRESSIVELY "dissupported", although it was in fact the most stable for a very long time.
The good news is that this aggressive stance seems to have successfully "forced" the hands of most software producers, and Windows 8 and 10 have enjoyed HUGE compatibility and stability gains.
You can run applications in a Virtual Machine if you positively want/need Linux or XP or some other variation, as long as you don't need that software to robustly access peripherals.
So I say go with windows 8 or 10 - both are good, and plan to live without anything that needs an earlier OS.
EDIT: Macintoshes should be in the running too. Although nearly invisible in some parts
of the country, they are by far the single
most popular laptop brand in many parts
of the US and have fantastic popularity and compatibility with software makers.
Since MacOS is actually a UNIX variant, essentially every UNIX based software on the market is natively supported on any modern Apple computer. Windows will run in a virtual machine in case you run into a software you need that is not Unix or MacOS compatible.