Microsoft continues its interesting OS naming schema with Windows 10

Tony Bradley takes a look at Microsoft's decision to name its new OS Windows 10. What would you have called it instead?

Windows 10
Image: Nick Statt/CNET

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

~ William Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet

Microsoft held a media event in San Francisco on Tuesday morning to unveil the latest version of the Windows operating system. Most of the world had settled on the idea that it would simply be called Windows 9, but Microsoft shocked everyone with the announcement that it will be named Windows 10.

It was codenamed "Windows Threshold," and there has been speculation that it might actually be called Windows Threshold, Windows TH, or that Microsoft would drop the numbering convention completely and just call it Windows. When media entered the event, they were told the password for the Wi-Fi network was Windows2015, so that started even more drama and speculation.

When Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's Windows, took the stage, he opened by laying out a vision for the future of the Windows platform. He even said, "Windows is at a threshold, and now it's time for a new Windows," which caused many to lean back toward thinking it would be Windows Threshold.

Then the presentation shifted to the mobile-first cloud-first world concept that has been the keystone of Satya Nadella's strategy since he took over the reins as CEO. Microsoft has already painted a vision of a unified OS -- one operating system platform that scales from mobile devices to laptop and desktop PCs, as well as game consoles and everything in between.

Myerson told the audience, "It wouldn't be right to call it Windows 9," and went on to suggest "Windows One," but he argued that there was already a Windows 1, so that option is off the table. Then Myerson revealed the big news that the next version of the flagship operating system will be named Windows 10.

Microsoft plans to deliver on the promise of the unified platform through Windows 10. The OS will run across the entire range of devices, gadgets, and PCs. Myerson explained that there will be one store, one way for apps to be discovered, purchased, and updated across all Windows 10 devices.

OK, but let's back up a step. Why Windows 10?

Windows Threshold had a nice ring to it. Windows TH would have been a unique approach. It would make some sense to get away from the numbering scheme. If you go that route, though, you have to be prepared to come up with clever names every time a new version is released.

Dropping the number and using just Windows alone would also make sense. I thought there was a good chance Microsoft might choose this path if it plans to changeto an Office 365-style subscription model for the operating system. It would take the focus off the version and the competition between versions like we see with Windows XP vs. Windows 7 vs. Windows 8, etc.

Windows One would have actually been the perfect name, in my opinion. It fits with a theme Microsoft has already been embracing. We have OneNote, SkyDrive was rebranded as OneDrive, and the latest Xbox game console is the Xbox One. Windows One would have fit right in, and the name would be apropos to its mission of uniting a diverse array of devices on a single platform.

Yes, there was once a Windows 1.0, but nobody really remembers or cares. Windows One is different than Windows 1.0, and I don't think you can reasonably suggest that there would be any confusion among businesses or consumers over which version of Windows One you're referring to.

I have read a couple opinions about skipping Windows 9. One suggested that doing so takes the wind out of the sails of Windows naysayers. The assertion was that bloggers were prepared to shred and criticize Windows 9, and that somehow changing to Windows 10 will prevent that. I don't buy that. Haters are going to hate no matter what you call it.

I also saw Harry McCracken point out on Twitter that it could be cultural. "In Japan, they consider the number 9 to be unlucky. (Possible explanation for Windows 10's name?)"

The reality is that there is little historical support for assuming any sort of logical progression. Microsoft has gone from Windows 3.1, to Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 / 8.1 over the last couple decades leading up to this version. With the exception of Windows 7 being superseded by Windows 8, there isn't really any evidence of chronological order in the names of the Windows operating system versions.

Regardless of how or why Microsoft arrived at Windows 10, that's the name we're stuck with. Microsoft is launching the WindowsInsider Program along with a technical preview release of the Windows 10 OS for daring souls who want to experiment with a platform that's still under development. Windows 10 is projected for official release in late 2015.

Tell us your thoughts about Windows naming schema. Do you like the name Windows 10? What would you have called it instead?

By Tony Bradley

Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He...