January 12, 2009 at 9:49 PM
Beta 1 for Windows 7 was just released last week. I haven't downloaded it, but happened to catch this blog post from the Windows team on Windows 7. The official name for the next version of Windows will be Windows 7. This name obviously came from the fact that the internal version number of this release of Windows would be version 7.0. Windows 2000 is 5.0, XP is 5.1, Vista is 6.0, and this next one will be 7.0, hence the name Windows 7. Apparently not! The RTM version of Windows 7 will have an internal version number of 6.1.
Microsoft's reasoning for this boils down to maximizing application compatibility. Programs and drivers that require themselves to be run on a build of Windows with a major version of 6 (or sometimes less) would continue to run on Windows 7 which will still have a major version of 6. Yet, I thought Microsoft's been saying Windows 7 is a brand new operating system, and not just a more stable or improved version of Vista?! Many have suggested the name for the upcoming OS should just be Vista SE, as in second edition. Not a bad idea, actually!
I'm perplexed to understand the situation. I can already see this versioning issue causing confusion by users trying to troubleshoot OS and application software issues on forums and other support channels. The reason a major build number exists is to differentiate between major builds of software. Although Windows 7 is looking a lot like a less resource hungry version of Vista, there's still the whole new touch screen functionality being added and early reports of Windows 7 Beta 1 show that some people are experiencing crashes in Beta 1. Being just Beta 1, crashes are expected, but if Windows 7 was just a more solid Vista with some minor enhancements, then I wouldn't expect any crashes, nor would I expect it to take 10+ months from this Beta 1 release until Windows 7 RTM's at the end of 2009 or early 2010.
From my point of view, it's quite evident there's enough changes going on in this upcoming release of Windows that an increment in the major build number should be made. Although Microsoft is trying to maximize application compatibility by keeping Windows 7's major build number at 6, I wouldn't be surprised if there will be some applications that allow themselves to run or be installed on Windows 7 because the major build number is 6, but crash or operate incorrectly because of differences in Windows 7 and Vista. I can only assume the version of Windows that will have an internal build number of 7.0 is going to be the next major release after Windows 7. What a needlessly confusing situation!