Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

Summary: I’m reading more and more about Windows 7 lately as PDC approaches and Microsoft begins revealing more snippets of information about its most secretive product ever. In most of that coverage, I've noticed an assumption that Windows 7 is going to be the final name of the product. I’ve been guilty of leaping to that conclusion myself. But a reader asked the other day why Microsoft is calling it Windows 7, and as I worked on my response to that question, it struck me that it’s entirely possible, even likely, that the next release of Windows will get a new name before it hits the streets. Keep reading, and I’ll give you a chance to compare your prediction with mine.

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Update 13-October: Microsoft has now made it official. The name of the next release of Windows will be ... Windows 7. 

I’m reading more and more about Windows 7 lately as PDC approaches and Microsoft begins revealing more snippets of information about its most secretive product ever. In most of that coverage, I've noticed an assumption that Windows 7 is going to be the final name of the product. I’ve been guilty of leaping to that conclusion myself.

But a reader asked the other day why Microsoft is calling it Windows 7, and as I worked on my response to that question, it struck me that it’s entirely possible, even likely, that the next release of Windows will get a new name before it hits the streets. (Keep reading, and I’ll give you a chance to compare your prediction with mine.)

I have to remind myself occasionally that Windows 7 is still a code name at this point. It might turn out to be the final name of the released product as well, but Microsoft has not officially announced details about its name, price, packaging, or availability.

In fact, at least one highly credible online source appears to have thought a great deal about the name of the next Windows. For the very first post on Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 blog, which launched in August, Windows head honchos Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan refer to their next release as “the ‘Windows 7’ project,” with the product name in quotes. The same paragraph contains two additional awkward references to “the next major release of Windows” and “the next Windows product.” These guys are engineers. They are extremely precise in their language, and I don’t think it’s an accident that in kicking off this blog they carefully used vague substitutes where you might expect to read a product name.

As I’ve written before, the release currently known as Windows 7 follows in a long line of Microsoft point-one releases:

  • Windows 95, as the first 32-bit OS for Microsoft, was deservedly assigned the major version number 4.0. Windows 98 was version 4.10, a great improvement over its predecessor that turned out to be a popular favorite until well into the new century. I still see Windows 98 machines in use occasionally.
  • Windows 2000 was release 5.0, the first in the version 5 family. It was followed by version 5.1, aka Windows XP, which built on the W2K kernel but was much friendlier for home users. Windows XP is going to be popular for a long, long time, whereas Windows 2000 has almost vanished.
  • Windows Vista was version 6.0, with a new major version number that reflects the big architectural changes that went into it. Windows 7, as dozens of leaked screen shots attest, is version 6.1. This numbering is almost certain to remain in the final product, primarily for the sake of compatibility. If the major version number is incremented to 7.0, many applications written to work with Windows Vista would fail to install, simply because of sloppy version checking.

Through the years, the Windows family has used numbers and years as product branding (separate from version numbers). Windows Millennium was the first baby step away from that, although at least the name was supposed to tie in with the year 2000 theme. Windows XP and Vista broke completely with that tradition for consumer products, although servers have stuck with the year as part of the name (Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008).

I think Sinofsky, Microsoft’s “new sheriff,” wants to take us back to those good ol’ days. Sinofsky previously ran the Office team, which followed a predictable philosophy of product naming. Each Office release (with the noteworthy exception of Office XP for Windows and v. X for the Mac, both released around the same time as Windows XP) had a year number: Office 95, 97, 2000, XP, 2003, 2007 for Windows; 98, 2001, v.X, 2004, and 2008 for Macs).

In fact, if Microsoft use Windows 7 as the name of their next release, they create a large technical support headache. When Windows users call a software company for support, they’re often asked to provide Windows and hardware configuration details, using a tool such as System Information (Msinfo32.exe). Imagine the confusion if the report says they’re running Windows 7, version 6.1.7000.

Microsoft clearly wants to turn the page on Vista. And what better way to do that than to choose a boring, predictable name? It’s a bit of a longshot, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the next release of Windows 7 gets a last-minute name change.

My prediction? I’m willing to go out on a limb and choose Windows 2009 as the brand that will go on retail boxes and in splash screens.

What do you think?

[poll id=13]

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • I Like the Name "Vista SE"

    Althought I thought Win98SE should have been a free update to Win98, it was much better recieved than Win98 was. I think Vista SE will do two things.

    1. It will validate current Vista users believe that Vista is a great OS and worthy of a continuing linege.

    2. It will validate current Vista bashers belief that Vista is simply beta software that shouldn't have been relased when it was. To them Vista SE will be the OS 'Vista should have been.'

    everyone wins.

    BTW, I believe I was the one that asked the question on your blog in the first place... Win7 as a code name still doesn't make sense to me (unless the final version of the kernel is 7.xx)
    mikefarinha
    • Interesting ideas!

      And yes, you were the one who asked the original question, which I covered over at my other place in a companion post to this one:

      http://www.edbott.com/weblog/?p=2161
      Ed Bott
    • Funny....

      While I was reading the article, I was thinking "Vista SE" the whole time. Thanks for stealing my talkback idea. You'll be hearing from the RIAA very soon. ]:)
      MGP2
    • Absolutely no way

      No way. Absolutely no way. Waaaay too much baggage with the name "vista." They'd be shooting themselves in the foot, because when people see the word "vista" they're going to remember all of the negative things they've heard about it. It's hard enough right now convincing people it's not as horrible as it sounds; keeping the name would just be prolong the negative perceptions.
      CobraA1
      • I disagree

        I think it is easier, marketing wise, to turn a brand around rather than to creat a new brand.

        Besides, it sounds like Microsoft wants to do a tick-tock relase strategy like Intel, alternating between a minor versions and major versions.

        We all know that Vista was a major version release and Win7 will be a minor version release(at its core). So why not keep the name Vista, I think it fits well with the see-through Areo GUI which is a part of Win7.
        mikefarinha
    • no, it was me

      In recent weeks I've pointed out repeatedly it was Windows 6.1 so why are they calling it Windows 7? When they DO eventually release a Windows 7.0 that name will already be taken!
      ChazzMatt
      • honesty vs lying

        Both Vista and Server 2008 are Windows 6.0. As we have discussed, the next release will be Windows 6.1.

        On the server side Microsoft is being refreshingly honest and calling it "Server 2008 R2".

        So, why the lying to call the consumer version "Windows 7" which suggests a MAJOR change that is not true? Answer: to confuse people into thinking it's not "Vista SP2".
        ChazzMatt
  • Following Steve's Philosophy

    As you so accurately noted, Steve has a knack for whole numbers as we know from his Microsoft Office reign. Office 12 (2007), Office 11 (2003), Office 10 (XP or version 2002), Office 9 (2000) and these were the actual code names. Now the logical view then would be that Windows 7 would most likely be Windows 2010. It also suggest the beginning of a new decade as Windows 2000 was seen to me and many when it was released at the beginning of this decade.

    I personally have also looked in to the idea of a new moniker like XP or Vista. I still find it strange that they are calling it Windows 7 but the version of the kernel is 6.1, unless they are doing this from a release perspective. Vista R2 is still a likely possibility, but something new and differentiator would also be nice, such as 'Windows Glide' which I think would really define the experience for users upgrading from Vista to 7. I am betting on either 2010 or new moniker.
    Mr. Dee
  • Might I suggest....

    Patches ! I think they should call it "Patches". It has a nice, almost Fisher-Price-like ring to it, doesn't it ?
    chuckleberry
    • Even has a theme song already!

      "I'm depending on you, son..."

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4KjO6gx65w
      Ed Bott
    • That'll just confuse people.....

      That will just confuse people....

      We won't be able to differentiate between Mac OSx, Windows or Linux! lol (u idiot)
      OMGDonnieBoyisanIdiot
  • RE: Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

    I'm pretty sure Vista R2 is out of the question. Many
    non-techie "oblivious" people who hear of Windows
    Vista instantly think of all the bad things they have
    heard about it. Whether they get told it's Vista SP1,
    SP2, R2, or hell, "Improved Edition" won't make a
    difference - it's Vista to them.

    Obviously some customers are more open minded, but that's the general consensus among people I'be spoken
    to about Vista.

    In my opinion windows 2010 would be my second guess,
    assuming Microsoft choose not to go with named
    version.
    Alan Burns
  • RE: Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

    "If the major version number is incremented to 7.0, many applications written to work with Windows Vista would fail to install, simply because of sloppy version checking."

    Yeah, that seems to happen with pretty much every Windows upgrade. There's always that installer that assumes the version number will never change or something.

    Frankly, some of the sloppiest code written tends to be installers. It's one of those things nobody likes to do but has to get done to release a product.

    . . . and I don't think they're going to use "Windows 7" or "Windows 2009" for the name. Nobody complained about the name "Vista" and it would appear they're going back to boring again.

    I'm guessing they're gonna choose some weird name again.

    One thing is for certain, though: There's no way the new name is going to have even a hint of "vista" in it.
    CobraA1
  • Why not just "Windows"? Nothing else.

    I actually like the name Windows 7. 7 is a good positive
    number. BUT, I agree that Windows 7 actually being version
    6.1 would be stupid, and Microsoft definitely shouldn't do
    that.

    I think the only way that the YEAR could be used as the name
    is if the client and server versions were released together, for
    example Windows 2010 and Windows Server 2010. It would
    create confusion if they were staggered, i.e. Windows 2009,
    Windows Server 2010, Windows 2011, etc. This may well be
    what will happen - I read or heard somewhere recently that
    Microsoft for the first time is now working on one central
    Windows code base for use on both client and server
    versions instead of "forking" the development tree and
    working on them as separate code bases - meaning
    simultaneous release.

    For the same reasons as other comments here, I think Vista
    R2 (or Vista SE) would create a marketing/perception
    nightmare, so they won't do that. (The best name for the
    optimal public perception would probably be "Windows XP
    2"!)

    My thoughts? I think they should just call it "Windows" and
    have a version number (6.1, 7.0, whatever) that is widely
    known and referenced, but not used in marketing.
    ross2000
    • instead of "forking" the development tree

      They have been building from the same code base since Windows XP and Server 2003. It takes them longer to release the servers because they have to make extra sure the server modules are stable and all turned on. You can actually make XP and Vista run as a server and Server run as a cleint with very little effort if you know what your doing. The big difference is what ships with each version. Vista comes with DirectX and no server configs, Server doesn't ship with DX server configs are loaded. However you can install them in either. I know cause I have. Themes also. they are still different versions, but they are fundamentally the same OS.
      ShadowGIATL
      • Server aspects

        That's why it's so easy to tell XP it's a server
        edition, which instantly gets you software RAID5
        functionality (which is activated in server versions
        and not desktop versions).

        http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/windowsxp-make-
        raid-5-happen,925.html

        Edit: Obviously the link is supposed to all be
        together. The comment system broke it up.
        MWPollard
  • Possible Window 7 names -- dustbin

    Rejected other Windows 7 names and their potential marketing strategies:

    1) Windows Home Media Corporate Office Business Edition Ultimate Server Pro -- all the different products in one version. Sure, it could just be Windows 7 Ultimate, but according to ZD-Net 'experts' *cough*, 'Joe Sixpack'+ can't count to five, and is confused by having to choose from options packages on those five++.

    2) Windows Super Awesome: The Official OS of NASCAR. Love it, hate it; huge money in NASCAR. For some reason, NASCAR advertising actually [i]pays[/i]. Slogan: Faster than OS X, Faster than Linux, faster than __insert NASCAR star racer___

    3)Happy Fun Windows Sparkle Edition: for those who thought Aero was ugly; here's more of the same powered up to the 10000th degree. Potentially even 'over 9000'. This and other lame Internet memes, plus hot pink buttons, flashing mauve backgrounds, electric yellow titlebars. Cheerful and creepy big-eyed cartoon mascots herald the return of Clippy to drive home the insanit....er. Fun.

    4) Windows Crapware Enabler: As long as OEMs are going to load it up with crapware anyway, why not make it a selling point? Free offers are good, right? Who doesn't want to join the SPAM-of-the-Month Club? Mmm, chocolate SPAM.

    5) Windows Don't Sue Us Integrated OS. Windows is starting to do too much again. Despite other manufactures bundling OS & Apps, Microsoft is never going to get a free pass again. Having the upfront plea may stave off future litigation. And it makes for catchy jingles!

    6) Windows Mario Kart: There's like, twenty zillion of those games, aren't there? Throw a mushroom and a plumber in there somewhere, call it "cross-pollenization of marketing dynamics". That'll do OK with the guys upstairs.

    7) X1457.8-3rf Latest build for the hyper-elite techies. The numbers are made up, but they sound kinda cool, like they mean something.
    You have to compile everything yourself from binaries. Six months after RTM, they'll make a window you can click on and it'll run all the command-line installation FOR YOU. This will be heralded as the final finishing touch on a perfect release. It will also be exactly the same as Windows 7.

    8)Windows Pie. Everyone likes pie. Even those Apple folks probably like Pie. Maybe it could even be Windows Apple Pie. Some confused Jobsians may be suckered into buying it.

    9) Windows Vista: the Director's Cut. Behind-the-scenes interviews with the Ribbon. Outtakes of development gaffes ("I forgot to uncomment the OLE code -- HAHAHA"). Hours and hours of extra features!

    10) OS Triple-X -- sold on IE8's 'private mode' (wink)

    +The entire idea of the phrase 'Joe Sixpack' offends me on some primal level. I have no idea why. I think I should feel insulted.

    ++Apparently, the average person has never bought a car. Thanks 'experts'!
    beoz
    • No kiddin'!

      [i]+The entire idea of the phrase 'Joe Sixpack' offends me on some primal level. I have no idea why. I think I should feel insulted.[/i]

      Isn't the rate of obesity in America somehwere around 50%? You know who's driving that? Joe Thirtypack". ]:)

      By the way, super creative post. Hats off to ya!
      MGP2
  • RE: Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

    I like Vista SE as well. I bought a PC with Win98, which I thought was much better than Win95, which itself was light years ahead of 3.11. My new PC came with a 98SE disk slipped into the top of the box. After a few weeks, I installed 98SE, and found it definitely an improvement over 98, even though it seemed rock solid. I wasn't sure about the Vista betas, but found the final shipping Vista great, and SP1 resolved the last remnents of any troubles (file copy anyone). Since I see Vista as a very solid O/S to begin with, I can't wait to see Vista SE come in a put the icing on the cake. (Just no ME version after that please - and I struggled keeping my Dad's ME laptop going for 7 years, and there's no comparing ME to Vista - ME was terrible. Vista is great, just has an bad image problem with non-users.
    db64
    • RE: Will Windows 7 get a new name for its release?

      As you said, Vista has an image problem. I know it's actually good; I'm constantly trying to convince somebody that "that evil thing" isn't really evil at all. Because of this, I find the name Vista SE really unlikely. I don't know what it's going to be called, but I think it might be interesting if it were Mohave (though I find this unlikely).
      inventingtech@...