It seems the next version of Windows, will be called “Windows 7″, which ends a 14 year run of calling Windows versions be either the year of their release or by catchy names which do not mean anything. It would appear that Microsoft has come out of it’s decade and a half comma, and started naming things the right way again.
Just to recap. For those of you to young to remember, there was a world BEFORE Windows 95. In fact Microsoft long dominated the OS world way before August of 1995 when Windows 95 was realized. I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft started to pull away with MS-Dos 5.0 and Windows 3.0. Prior to 3.0 Windows was not that integrated an environments. While there were Programs designed to run inside Windows 2 and 2.11, these where less graphical environments rather than “shells” from which to run Dos programs. Starting in 1990 with the release of Windows 3.0 Microsoft pushed hard for programs that ran ONLY inside of Windows, and Microsoft refined it’s a package to incorporate the blooming “multimedia” craze (Windows 3.1) and the business Networking boom (Windows 3.11) . The MS-DOS/Windows marriage became so tight that by 1994 most PCs simply booted DOS and went straight into Windows by calling c:\windows\win.com from the autoexec.bat file. The typical PC user knew about DOS, but did almost everything inside of Windows.
With Windows 95 Microsoft changed direction. They combined MS-Dos and Windows into a single OS package, and gave it a fancy new “Explorer” shell. The really bizarre irony here is that from a technological standpoint the move from MS-Dos 6.22 & Windows 3.11 to Windows 95 was mostly cometic. It was not until Windows 98 that there was a genuine shift in the underpinnings of Windows. Yet these tremendous achievements made by Windows 98 over Windows 95 where mostly missed by the general public because they both had the same visual interface.
But Microsoft also started an odd marketing gimmick with Windows 95 that still persists to this day. Prior to Windows 95, software makers named there software reasonable things like “Printshop 2.0″, The “2.0″ being the operative clause, letting the user know exactly what version of the software they had. So if they were in a software store and saw a Box labeled “Printshop 3.0″ they knew it was a new version. After Microsoft’s Windows 95, other software markers started naming their software things like 95, 96, 97, etc, etc. I suppose this works well if you release a new version every year. But putting the YEAR in the software title may seem all neuvo, until you realize a couple of years later that your still trying to sell software that’s dated itself old in the title.
To even add MORE confusion, I saw some software makers trying to have it both ways, naming things like “Software 95 2.0″ or “Software 3.5 97″. Of course this was in the “tech-boom” of the late 1990s when there was more venture capital than sense, and you could get 3 or 4 million is startup money just with a catchy name.
For 5 years Microsoft Dated our OS. So if it was 200 and you ran unto someone using Windows 95, you knew they were not technology viable as a person. But the ever clever Microsoft group changed course yet again, and gave us Windows XP, but never really made clear what “XP” stood for. (It’s generally accepted that “Windows eXPerance” was the root of the marketing ploy). Then we moved to Windows Vista, which was an appropriately silly sounding name, for a silly OS.
I think alot of this naming foolishness came about as Microsoft began to elevate Steve Balmer’s roll in the company. Up until the late 1990s Microsoft had been run by technical people. Balmer’s background was not technical, but marketing (thou he had been with the company sense the early days). I think this really started to show with products like Windows ME, and Microsoft BOB, where technical substance was usurped by marketing venire. In fact I think you can trace a lot of Microsoft’s current problems back to the mid to late 90s when “marketing” became an issue for them. Windows 3.1, while it did have it’s problems and limitations, was a rather stable environment. The wasted vast amounts of treasure into marketing Windows 95, XP, and Vista. When the really technically superior OSes, Windows 98, 2000, and XP Service Pack 2, got little or any fanfare.
I’m hoping that with Windows 7, Microsoft returns to the track of low key, technically superior OS releases. If the name is anything to go on, they are on the right track.