This time last year the internal codename for Windows 8 at Microsoft was Windows vNext (Version Next). This is perhaps just to be considered a product codename in the same way that Windows 7 was known as Vienna (much to the annoyance of people who lived in the Austrian city) and previous editions were named after locations in the Microsoft executives favourite ski resort in Canada, Whistler, named after the ski resort that was later the location for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Longhorn which is a cafe at the resort and Blackcomb that was an early designation for Windows 7.
Anybody who asked a Microsoft staffer what vNext meant the standard reply was “the next version of Windows” but the truth probably goes much deeper than that and I can’t help but wonder if Windows Next was seriously considered for a while as a product name.
The reason behind this is that a year ago Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO, began talking about what we now know as Windows 8. He was using words like “bold” and describing it as “risky”. When September came around we realised just what he meant as the Metro interface we’d been shown previously was unveiled as the new default UI for the operating system. Windows was being reinvented, re-engineered and effectively rebranded as a new type of OS.
In this context the name Windows Next makes complete sense. If you are completely redesigning an operating system from the ground up, as Apple did with OS X, why not give it a bold new name? There are reasons to stick with Windows (version number) however. These include familiarity, people might not necessarily have known that Vista followed XP, or that Next followed 7. It is always clear that 8 follows 7 and a standard numbering system has worked very well for Microsoft Office and Windows Server for some time.
There is also the fact that many things are construed from a name. Vista for instance was very appropriately named as it was lovely to look at, but difficult to actually interact with! If Microsoft had pressed ahead and called this next release Windows Next, and it didn’t turn out to be this, or was a failure of the likes of Vista, then the company and its products could be held to ridicule… or worse. Given the way some people seem to feel about the new Metro user interface, this could well have happened.
It is interesting to think though that Microsoft could have considered the name “Windows Next” for this product. It seems very appropriate in many ways, but all things considered, Windows 8 is perhaps a choice that is more sound. It would be very interesting to hear what you think though. Do you think Microsoft could or should have called this new OS release “Windows Next” or do you think sticking with numbers is the way forward? Why not tell us in the comments below.