Windows 10: Why Skip 9? (updated)

So right on the heels of Microsoft announcing Windows 10, the next version of Windows to follow Windows 8.1, everyone is wondering the same thing: what happened to Windows 9?

Windows 7 was a good name, despite it not being the 7th version of Windows or being NT 7.0, or really anything relating to 7.  7 is a lucky number, 7 is a significant number in the Bible (the Microsoft-produced, extremely popular video game series that you might know by the name of “Halo” played on this significantly as a thematic element).  This makes sense from a marketing perspective, relating to the English, American market.

Windows 8 was a decent name, despite it again not being an 8th version or an 8.0.  But the number 8 is striking in that it looks like the infinity symbol.  Perhaps this was also some sort of homage to the significance of the number 8 in computer history – 8 bits in a byte.  Of course, this is speculation, but it doesn’t change that 8 is an attractive number without much of a negative stigma attached to it.

So why not Windows 9?  I’m sure some culture out there finds the number 9 religiously significant or beautiful, but the number 9 also holds a sort of stigma in my mind.  It’s on the cusp of reaching the next level, the double digit of 10.  10 is a nice, round number.  From a marketing perspective (which I might add that Microsoft is usually pretty terrible at), this actually sort of makes sense.  I think, more than anything, Microsoft wanted to give the impression that Windows 10 is just that far ahead of Windows 8.  They don’t want it to seem like it’s a step away from the next level, they want it to seem like it is the next level.

I don’t see how this could have anything to do with OS X.  There’s no advantage for Microsoft to do that except to draw attention to the product, which it has done just by skipping 9 alone. It’s frustrating that people are already making the name comparisons.  You can’t keep incrementing your version numbers by 1 forever.  Apple recognized this and found a good stopping point at OS X – the X bearing significance as both the Roman numeral for 10 and an homage to the operating system’s (then) new Unix roots.  Apple would be on OS XX if they kept incrementing like that.  Can you imagine calling Mavericks “OS XIX” or even just “OS 19?”  It’s not an attractive name and it would likely be confusing to consumers.  There is only a certain set of numbers that work well in a product name, and using the year is a bad idea for a consumer OS because it is a constant reminder of the software’s age.  It works for enterprise, because IT people understand the thought that goes into updates and patches and “R2′s,” and we know – no matter the name of the OS – when the OS is actually outdated.  How much worse of an image would Microsoft have garnered if Windows XP had been called Windows 2001 when Vista holdouts were still using it in early 2009?  Perhaps none, but it nevertheless interesting to think about.



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