October 13, 2008 (Computerworld) Microsoft Corp. announced today that the code name for its next operating system, Windows 7, will be the product’s official name.
Now that the official name for “Windows 7” is “Windows 7”, everyone is officially confused.
I’ve never been a big fan of using the year as part of the product name, e.g. Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008, because it hides some useful information. I prefer the use of versions number, which helps clarify when it’s a major (architecture change) or minor (cleanup) release.
BTW, did you notice the switch from “2000 Server” to “Server 2003”? This happened when the 2000 Professional upgrade (the desktop release) became Windows XP – giving us the XP/2K3 pair, client/server pair.
Some say that the XP is for “eXPerience”. I’m of the opinion that XP is for the Greek letters “chi” and “rho” – Microsoft had been talking about its Cairo vision for years and this was pretty close.
Sorry about the distraction, I need to get back to the “version numbers”. Well, maybe one more side trip. What does the NT in Windows NT stand for? You and most people would probably respond: “New Technology” and I would agree if you wanted the ‘much later’ marketing answer. But actually it stands for “N-Ten”, code-name for the Intel i860, the initial development target for Microsoft’s new NT O/S. And the sticking of “Windows” on top of NT was a pleasant and fortuitous happenstance.
The first version of “Windows NT” was v3.1, not v1.0. Even though it was v1 of the O/S, Windows had progressed up to v3.1, after its v1 and v2. This gave us the happenstance of a popular interface (Windows) with a major new O/S (NT).
What followed was NT 3.5, NT 3.51, and finally NT 4 (the “To SUR, with Love” release for James Bond fans) with SUR being “shell update release” – major new interface, sometimes called the Cairo interface, first seen on Windows 95, but developed for NT. This is when we started “right-clicking”.
NT 4 was then, actually the fourth release and was reaching a normal maturity level for O/Ses – stable and commercially successful. But a number of companies, especially the larger companies, had shared with Microsoft, that no matter how good the O/S, they would not embrace a solution heavy in proprietary technologies (e.g. NTLM, NetBIOS).
Microsoft got the message and started a major, (new architecture) multi-year project to develop Windows NT 5 – note the major version number. NT 5 replaced, with considerable engineering effort, the proprietary parts with preferred industry standards (e.g. Kerberos, DNS, LDAP), while still maintaining backward compatibility.
At the very last minute, the marketing people decided to rename the O/S to Windows 2000. I can understand how everyone wanted something called 2000, at the time. But without the version number, and even worse, dropping the use of NT, the confusion began. The one advantage was that it faked the Windows 98 people into upgrading to a major new and completely different O/S (NT vs. DOS), while thinking that it was just a simple upgrade. The 98 people had been intimidated by the exotic NT.
With a major release (NT 5), there’s always a lot of cleanup to do. So engineering started immediately on a cleanup of the desktop (client) piece and soon was able to release NT 5.1 (minor release), known to the world as Windows XP.
On any of the O/S, you can type, at the command prompt, either “ver” or “winver” and the O/S will disclose the major.minor information plus any SP (Service Pack) details. As another happenstance, by using 95, 98, 98SE, ME, then XP as product names, Microsoft was able to move (fake out) the last of the installed base from the older DOS to a modern O/S, NT.
Next, engineering went to work on the Server half of the O/S and shipped Windows Server 2003, which is NT 5.2 (minor release), giving us the matched (cleaned up) pair of XP/2K3 – minor releases, “clean-ups” of the Windows 2000 (NT 5) major release.
After addressing the industry standards, Microsoft then turned its attention to “the security issue”. Microsoft had decided that they wanted to be known, in the industry, “for security”, not for a lack of security. XP SP2/2K3 SP1 is the matched security pair – the limit of what could be done without a major architectural release, NT 6.
NT 6 “Longhorn” was driven by major changes in the architecture to improve security (e.g. UAC, Service SIDs). Vista SP1/ Server 2008 is the matched security pair. Why would one upgrade to Longhorn (NT 6)? Answer: Security. IE7 has a unique “Protected Mode” on NT 6.
If you follow the “hidden” versions for Exchange and IIS, you also learn a lot about the major vs. minor releases. IIS is v6 on Server 2003, not v5.2 – critical information, if you want security for your web sites.
So, NT, the kernel (looking at the business side of things) has gone from 3.1 to 3.5, 3.51, 4.0, 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 6.0, and then 6.1.
And Windows, the interface (looking at the consumer side of things) has gone from Windows 1.0 to 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 (9x/SE/ME), 5.0 (XP), 6.0 (Vista), and finally Windows 7.
But the attempt to clarify, adds a little confusion, in the fact that it looks like Windows 7 will still be using the “Longhorn”, NT 6.1 kernel.
If we’re just counting Windows releases, then Windows 7 works.
But the next release of the Server will probably, correctly be called Windows Server 2008 R2 – not a SP, not an architectural change, just a mid-life refresh, with new “roles/features”, what we saw with Server 2003 R2 (the first R2). This whole R2 thing is another discussion.
So Windows 7 could have been Vista R2. But with all the engineering focus on the interface, can you say “touch”, Windows 7 works for me. And, I’m hesitant to add, that it would allow the name Vista to slide into history.
If you’re not confused yet, Windows Server 2008 comes out of the box with a SP1 pre-applied (non optional). So when they ship its “first” SP, it will be called???? I’m going to stop now.