Dad, what happened to Microsoft Windows 9?

18 May 2015

 

By Stephen A Chadwick 

Technology Editor


Driving my 11 year old home from school on Friday he asked why Windows 10 wasn't called Windows 9. It's a valid question. I mean, if you take the decision to start sequentially numbering your operating systems then logic would dictate that 8 should be succeeded by 9 and not 10. He's not old enough to remember XP or the train crash that was Vista. Indeed his entire Minecraft blogging career has only utilised Windows 7 and 8 and so naturally he's curious as to where Windows 9 has gone.

I had nothing approaching a suitable explanation on me and keen to maintain the illusion of encyclopaedic knowledge that holds me in such revery by immediate family members aged under 12, I mumbled something about it being a long story and having to concentrate on driving. But my own curiosity was piqued, I vowed to find out.

I went route one, straight to the source of my current quandary for answers, but Microsoft themselves provided the somewhat implausible reasoning that 9 was omitted in order to "highlight the leap forward from Windows 8", which frankly, sounded a bit ropey to me.

Entirely dissatisfied with that, I continued rummaging around and stumbled on something that, even if totally inaccurate, sounded far more credible and was certainly something I could sell with ease to an 11 year old - Legacy Software.

The reasoning goes like this: When adding some peripheral, program or app to your PC the software you install naturally depends on the OS you're using - Linux, Solaris, Mac, Windows... So in the event you're running Windows it then looks to see which version: 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista, 7 or 8. Windows 95, 98 and ME were all based on the same 9x kernel and MS-DOS foundation. Developers often abbreviated it to "windows 9" when coding, as is evident in this snippet of Java Code highlighted in red:

 

/** Performs computation and returns the result, or throws some exception. */

public HashSet<String> call() throws Exception {

final String arch = System.getProperty("os.arch");

String name = System.getProperty("os.name").toLowerCase();

String version = System.getProperty("os.version");

if (name.equals("solaris") || name.equals("SunOS")) {

name = "solaris";

} else if (name.startsWith("windows")) {

name = "windows";

if (name.startsWith("windows 9")) {

if (version.startsWith("4.0")) {

version = "95";

} else if (version.startsWith("4.9")) {

version = "me";

} else {

assert version.startsWith("4.1");

version = "98";

 

So releasing a Windows 9 OS could potentially throw up compatibilty issues, who knows how many businesses and private individuals out there are still running old hardware, why risk some Y2K scenario when you can just skip straight to 10? Now this was a theory I could work with - it certainly beat the "9 is an unlucky number in Japanese culture" explanation (for which I could find no evidence). What's more it was posted by a blogger that claimed to work for Microsoft, so it absolutely had to be true!

Of course with Apple running OS X (OS 10) it's far more likely the result of a marketing decision. The perception that a Windows 9 OS would in some way be inferior to an Apple 10 OS can't have escaped the attention of Microsoft's marketing department. But that's just not the kind of story that will have an 11 year old wide-eyed, full of admiration for his wise father, the patriarchal possessor of privileged information. He'll be a teenager soon and I'll become Satan in his eyes, I have to treasure these moments.

Yes Sir. "Legacy Software". Pure gold.