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Why Are Operating System Version Names So Absurd? 460

Posted by timothy
from the bet-you-can-think-of-a-few-reasons dept.
jfruh writes "Apple's spent more than a decade on version 10 — or, rather, X — of its flagship operating system, with .x versions named after big cats (and many of them, it turns out, after the same big cats). Ubuntu Linux is scrambling to find ever more obscure animals to alliteratively name its versions after. And let's not even talk about Windows, whose current shipping OS is sold as Windows 7 but is really Windows NT 6.1. Why is this area of software marketing so ridiculous?"
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Why Are Operating System Version Names So Absurd?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:10PM (#41301923)

    My friend Peter is not a rock, and my friend Thomas isn't even a twin.

    • Yeah, names. Like /.

      http:///..com [..com] gotcha.

    • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:15PM (#41302943)

      I've been shaving since 2004.

    • by wdef (1050680)

      My friend Peter is not a rock, and my friend Thomas isn't even a twin.

      Peter denies that three times and Thomas doubts it.

  • Marketing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WillAdams (45638) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:11PM (#41301945) Homepage

    Apple never would've been able to convince the Mac faithful to purchase OPENSTEP 5.0, &c.

  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:11PM (#41301947)

    You cannot trademark numbers.

    Also, for most non-techies, it is easier to remember "Tiger" than "10.4"

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:23PM (#41302149)

      You cannot trademark numbers.

      Also, for most non-techies, it is easier to remember "Tiger" than "10.4"

      I'd disagree on the latter. Which came first, Debian Potatoe or Debian Sarge? Damfino (well, actually I do, but,...) However every noob knows 2005 is more recent than 2000.

      Where I work, internally, its all git-flow, and our releases have really boring, yet informative, names which are basically of the format:

      release/`date +%Y-%M-%d`

      Like today's heroic effort would be release/2012-09-11

      This date structure also helps with git-flow features, obviously you can't have two "add some bs" branches but you can have "2012-06-01-add-some-bs" and "2012-08-13-add-some-bs"

      If one of my coworkers gets outta whack about last monday's release I know exactly what he's talking about, that would be release/2012-08-27 Or I can even find 2012-06-18. But "Rumbly Rumpelstiltskin v2.1D" WTF is that? thats just unprofessional.

    • Indeed. Apple has even decreased the amount of marketing in the last version or two that's focused on the .x portion of the name, instead choosing to replace references to it in a lot of their literature with the codename for the version. In fact, if you go to the OS X page [apple.com], you won't see a single mention of "10.8" anywhere, except for a footnote in one of the subsections where they specify what version of the OS they ran the SunSpider benchmark on.

      Microsoft figured that out even earlier, with their shift t

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jythie (914043) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:31PM (#41302283)
      Non-techies?

      I would wager the engineers play a big role in all these names. Just look at what happens when the are asked to start naming their servers....
      • by rbrausse (1319883)

        Just look at what happens when the are asked to start naming their servers....

        HEY! this is _important_!

    • To say nothing of the fact that the version as a number doesn't matter. The purpose of the version is to distinguish between different version of the same product so you know what's compatible, what broke, where to start debugging, etc. Most major OS releases don't even come close to being "the same product" from a user perspective, and the other factors are all issues that developers care about and end users pretty much shouldn't have to.

      For things like Windows and OSX, all the differentiation that matters

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:17PM (#41302997)

      But it's harder to remember that Tiger is newer or older than Panther or Leopard.

  • Or Fifa 98 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr. Kinky (2726685) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:12PM (#41301967)
    Can you believe that Fifa 98 [youtube.com] was really made in 1997?! WOOOHOO!
  • Solaris? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:13PM (#41301977)

    And Solaris 2.x is SunOS 5.x. There's the software version and then there's the marketing name. If you haven't noticed, Windows NT went 3.1, 3.5, 4.0, 2000, XP/2003, 7/2008, 2012, 8.

    It's not really any more ridiculous than any other marketing effort.

    • Re:Solaris? (Score:5, Informative)

      by wastedlife (1319259) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:21PM (#41302115) Homepage Journal

      You missed a couple of NT releases, here is the complete list:

      3.1, 3.5, 3.51, 4.0, 2000, XP/2003, Vista/2008, 7/2008R2, 8/2012

      I can't blame you for missing 3.51, although it was a separate release from 3.5. I also can't blame you for completely dismissing the existence of Vista, I know I would like to.

    • Are car names and model designations any less stupid?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, not really.

      Solaris is or at least was a package of software which contained SunOS, Openwindows and ONC.

      You could license just the SunOS separately for an embedded devices like Fore which did ATM switches etc. did.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:14PM (#41301993)

    Windows, whose current shipping OS is sold as Windows 7 but is really Windows NT 6.1

    This is a distinction between a brand name and a kernel version number. Why is this more absurd compared to "Precise Pangolin" for instance?

    Regardless, I think you'll find names of almost any product in a sufficiently crowded marketplace become absurd as they try to differentiate themselves and also avoid stepping on any trademarked names. You see this with domain names in particular.

  • Personally, I'm waiting for Verizon to introduce the Droid Razr Super Maxxx HD LTE 2.

    I'm a dedicated Android fan, but I'm sick of the overload of different models and ridiculous names. Some variety is great, but please....

    One thing I like about the Galaxy line is that, though there are endless spin-offs, they are essentially delineated into generations I, II, III, etc.

  • by Aquitaine (102097) <sam@ i a m s a m . o rg> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:15PM (#41302007) Homepage

    Naming a product to sell it in a commercial market has got nothing to do with internal release milestones, and you don't have to be a marketing expert to realize that 'Windows 11' doesn't sound especially cool, whereas 'X' or 'Wild Giraffe' both sound awesome.

    The question is more ridiculous than the discrepancy.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594)
    NO [wikipedia.org]
  • Newsworthy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:16PM (#41302023) Homepage Journal

    Could we have a tag: 'newsworthy' - something to identify a story as being worth paying ANY attention to?

  • I'm a beefy miracle! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nushio (951488) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:16PM (#41302029) Homepage

    It helps when you're googling to know which software version you're in. Sometimes it's easier to Google for "Ubuntu Boring Beaver" than "Ubuntu 11.04" or whatever. Likewise with Windows, noone ever calls it Windows NT so noone would bother searching for Windows NT 6.1 issues.

    It's all in the marketing, as many have stated.

  • Because... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ilsaloving (1534307) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:17PM (#41302033)

    Operating Systems are fundamentally boring. Once you get past the fanboi-ism, they are just software that sits there on your computer. They are there to *facilitate* your work, but they don't produce anything in and of themselves.

    So you have to jazz them up as much as you can, so people will take notice.

    • Except if the OS wasn't there, you'd have to create it. Every layer of abstraction the OS provides is another layer that app developers do not need to invent themselves. Remember DOS games that made you choose your audio card and video card? The OS is the huge base that lets you build your app pyramids.

  • what a waste of time (Score:5, Informative)

    by cynop (2023642) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:17PM (#41302043)

    i suppose MsDOS 6.22, windows 3.11, system V and AmigaOS 3.1 were much more meaningfull, right? jeez, TFA is a waste of time

    • I concur. I think the author would have done better to complain about why we call the color of the sky on a sunny day "blue". What's the point of that?

  • by Revotron (1115029) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:18PM (#41302059)
    ...because convincing people to pay $200 to upgrade from Windows NT 6.0 to Windows NT 6.1 is not as easy as telling them it's a whole new version of Windows.

    Also, Apple uses the big cat theme for the same reason. Tell somebody you want $30 to upgrade them from 10.7 to 10.8 and you wouldn't have much success. On the flip side, there's not enough of a difference between each version of Mac OS X to warrant each getting its own major number. They're all based on the same underlying kernel and subsystems but have new features and UI improvements as the big selling point.
  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comcast. n e t> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:19PM (#41302073) Journal
    DUH!!!!!!! Version control numbers are completely beyond the need of the laymen when it comes to OS. All they care about is if its new or different from what they are running and thus why the OS has names like Win 8 or Mountain Lion. I almost never refer to Lion as Lion except to users. To me its 10.7.# Build ##### thats all I need thats all I care about.
  • I thought the main reason for Windows 7 being Windows NT 6.1 was because that way they could avoid breaking driver compatibility since most of the drivers should still work between these very similar architectures. Windows NT 6.0 - Windows Vista/Server 2008 Windows NT 6.1 - Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows NT 6.2 - Windows 8/Server 2012
    • Re:Drivers (Score:5, Informative)

      by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot&yahoo,com> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:45PM (#41302481) Homepage Journal

      This is correct. MS changes the kernel major version number when they introduce major (sometimes backward-incompatible) driver-interface changes. They actually aren't always backward-incompatible; NT6.0 (Vista) would actually load most NT5.1 (XP) or even 5.0 (2000) drivers just fine... but it wasn't generally supported, and the installers would freak out at the changed major version number (this could be worked around by running in Compatibility Mode to spoof the version info, among other things). Besides, some drivers (notably network and printer drivers, which had significant interface changes) just *didn't* work correctly, if at all, with NT6.x. Windows 8 is still NT 6.2 because, although they've removed a few more of the old NT5.x driver interfaces, the 6.x drivers will still work.

  • by bmo (77928)

    ...dear subby, marketing in itself is absurd.

    --
    BMO

  • Absurd? (Score:4, Funny)

    by 3vi1 (544505) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:21PM (#41302113) Homepage Journal

    Absurd? I don't know what you're talking about.

    [posted from Quantal Quetzal 12.10b1]

  • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:22PM (#41302121)
    ...the might end up with something like:
    OS
    OS:The Animated Series
    OS:The Next Generation
    OS: Deep Space 9
    OS: Voyager
    OS: Enterprise
  • by na1led (1030470) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:23PM (#41302143)
    Pick a name in alphabetical order. That way you have an idea if you have the latest version.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:24PM (#41302161) Homepage

    Not sure about why these things get such odd names for people to use ... but years ago when I still coded for a living, if we were working on something, we specifically gave it a codename which a) the marketing guys would never ever use, and b) which made it not so obvious what it was.

    We used to find that if the sales guys caught whiff of something, or liked the working name, it would end up being used in customer presentations and generally cause problems as they started selling something that hadn't been released (or even coded) yet.

    So project anchovy or project firkin tended to keep them away. This was done throughout development, and I believe was actually a policy.

    As to why Ubuntu comes up with such odd names ... that I can't even speak to. Because "Zitty Zebra" or "Punk-Rock Platypus" never seem to make sense as official names to me.

    • by vlm (69642)

      if we were working on something, we specifically gave it a codename which a) the marketing guys would never ever use, and b) which made it not so obvious what it was.

      The almighty GOOG is failing me now but this explains the release of some software I was using from github with the release name "Cinco de who gives a f*ck". At least I didn't have to guess what day that was released, or what he though about having to "work" on his holiday.
      There's another project out there using pr0n actresses names as "release names". Come on mighty GOOG, dont you index github?

  • Revision numbers just don't market well....
  • It is probably a trademark issue. The stranger the name (i.e., distinct) the easier it is to protect the name. If you named your operating system, Functional Operating System, you will have a harder time than if you had named your operating system, Big Slick.
    • Unique trademark-able names are fine. Giving a different fruity name to every version isn't. The developers think the universe revolves around their product and everyone will remember all their little names and applaud them for their cleverness... but they're wrong.

      Android 2.2, 3.0, 4.0 -- ok
      Froyo, Donut, Fruitcake, Ice Cream Sandwich -- not ok

      Debian 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 -- ok
      Potato, Buzz, Woody, Blowjob -- not ok

      Apple seems to have wizened up and does not give fruity names to every minor version of iOS. Maybe wit

  • "Why is this area of [software] [marketing] so ridiculous?"

    You has it

  • Easily Google-able (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ynot_82 (1023749)

    Only speaking for Linux here,
    But googling for generic issues often throws up heaps of out-of-date or otherwise unhelpful hits
    For a set of systems that move so fast (eg. 6 monthly release cycles for Ubuntu and Fedora), you need to get more taylored results

    Including "Quantal", "Wheezy" or "Spherical" in your search terms is likely to pull up far more relevant results

  • 6.1 is the kernel version, the full OS is Windows 7.

    Its the same reason RedHat doesn't sell RedHat 2.3.125, but RedHat 6 or whatever.

    • by flink (18449)

      6.1 is the kernel version, the full OS is Windows 7.

      C:\>ver

      Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]

      C:\>help ver
      Displays the Windows version.

      VER

      Hmm, doesn't say anything about kernels in there...

  • I knew what year Windows 95 came out, and I knew Win 98 was 3 years afterwards. I know that "Prickly Penguin" is after "Jumping Jeroboa" (yes, I know those aren't real names), but I don't immediately know when each came out. And I don't have a clue which Debian toy was when.. At least with years, I know how old a given OS is.

  • Far more egregious than OS names is the numbering convention for the Xbox and Firefox. Xbox went from 1 to 360, presumably because Microsoft's marketing department couldn't stand to be stuck at 2 when the Playstation was already on 3. I'd like how they're going to address that one when they get to the next gen model; they'll probably go with a name instead. Firefox is currently at 15 when every update since about 4 has been incremental. I doubt they'd even have gotten to 5 by now were they following proper

  • by Fubari (196373) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:07PM (#41302855)
    OS names are like car models... it's just that OS names haven't been around as long so articles like TFA still get written.

    For example, Porsche911 has been around almost fifty years (since 1963 [wikipedia.org]).
    I wonder if anyone in 1973 wrote an article on "Porsche '911' - A Nonsensical Naming Standard?"
    Maybe people in 2052 will still be driving "OS X" or "Windows Server 2052".

    Feature-wise, both OS makers & auto makes have arbitrary upgrade cycles. Industry observers for both often complain about minor do-nothing incremental changes, as well as sweeping wide reaching changes (vista, anyone?).

    fwiw - I believe airplane manufacturers follow a similar naming convention (737, 747, Airbus, Cesna, ...). Spaceship manufacturers are still fairly new, but I bet in 2052 that SpaceX will still be building Falcons.

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