Why did Microsoft choose ‘7’ – Mike Nash Explains

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on the new version name for Windows ‘7’. Today, Microsoft shares their official explanation on why it was chosen. Surprisingly a lot of the thoughts I expressed were also noted in Microsoft’s post. Key points to take away include: its the 7th major release of Windows, Compatibility, delivering great improvements on top of Vista.

There’s been a lot of lively discussion since I confirmed yesterday that the official name for the next version of the Window client operating system will be "Windows 7" about how we got to the number "7."

I’ll say up front, that there are many ways to count the releases of Windows and it’s been both a trip down memory lane and quite amusing to read all the different theories about how we got to the number "7."

Read the entire post here

Anyway, the numbering we used is quite simple.  The very first release of Windows was Windows 1.0, the second was Windows 2.0, the third Windows 3.0.

Here’s where things get a little more complicated.  Following Windows 3.0 was Windows NT which was code versioned as Windows 3.1. Then came Windows 95, which was code versioned as Windows 4.0.  Then, Windows 98, 98 SE and Windows Millennium each shipped as 4.0.1998, 4.10.2222, and 4.90.3000, respectively. So we’re counting all 9x versions as being 4.0. – Mike Nash

I said: Some persons are looking on Windows XP 5.1 as a major release that discredits Windows 7 as being a 7th release, it would in fact make it the 8th release. Lets go back down memory lane:

  1. Windows 1x – 1.0, 1.1
  2. Windows 2x – 2.0, 2.1
  3. Windows 3x – 3.0, 3.1, 3.2 (Chinese) NT 3.1, NT 3.5, NT 3.51
  4. Windows 4x – 95, NT 4.0, 98, 98 SE, ME
  5. Windows 5x – 2000 (5.0), XP (5.1), Server 2003/R2 (5.2)
  6. Windows 6x – Vista, Server 2008
  7. Windows 7

We learned a lot about using 5.1 for XP and how that helped developers with version checking for API compatibility.  We also had the lesson reinforced when we applied the version number in the Windows Vista code as Windows 6.0– that changing basic version numbers can cause application compatibility issues. 

So we decided to ship the Windows 7 code as Windows 6.1 – which is what you will see in the actual version of the product in cmd.exe or computer properties. – Mike Nash

I said: Microsoft wants to ensure compatibility is not a problem with this release, and 6.1 as the NT kernel ensures that.

There’s been some fodder about whether using 6.1 in the code is an indicator of the relevance of Windows 7.  It is not.

Windows 7 is a significant and evolutionary advancement of the client operating system.  It is in every way a major effort in design, engineering and innovation.  The only thing to read into the code versioning is that we are absolutely committed to making sure application compatibility is optimized for our customers. – Mike Nash

I said: A lot of people are calling this release minor, but please, understand, its not, its actually major and there will be a whole lot more to be revealed. Windows XP itself was considered a major update that introduced many changes such as the Luna Theme and the updated Start menu in addition to being first consumer version of Windows based on NT.

Ok, it sounds like I’m vindicating something, LOL! I kinda am, its just I want persons in the Windows Enthusiast community to calm down. Windows 7 using a kernel with 6.1 doesn’t suggest how big or small a release this is. In fact, it means innovation, it means, working on bring great experiences to your applications as a developer, it means taking advantage of new technologies and bringing your investments in Vista forward as an end user. There is so much in store, I can’t wait to see what’s shown at PDC 2008 and WinHec 2008!

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