Why Microsoft Doesn’t Care About Windows 10…And Neither Should You

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Last week Microsoft announced the forthcoming release of its next Windows 10 operating system.  And even though the system is still very much in an earlier stage of development (release date isn’t scheduled until “later in the year” in 2015) there are plenty of interesting things about it. Among these interesting things are more features to support touch, a better way to “snap” windows into view, enhanced security, improvements to Explorer, even the return of the Start button. The system promises to be much, much better than the current Windows 8 and many in the Microsoft technical community are already giving it a thumbs up. But then there’s the mystery.

Whatever happened to Windows 9? The company skipped it! It’s an issue that’s being actively discussed online.

Pete Babb at InfoWorld actually (and hilariously) predicted this back in 2013 when he wrote an April Fool’s piece titled: “Microsoft skips ‘too good’ Windows 9, jumps to Windows 10.” But this no longer seems like a joke. Today, many experts really do believe it’s because Microsoft wants to leave Windows 8 in the dust: “Clearly, Microsoft wishes to put some distance between their current operating system, Windows 8, from their latest project. By skipping a number, Microsoft might be repeating a formula they used in their successful transition from the panned Windows Vista to Windows 7 — create enough cognitive dissonance so that users will “forget” just how “bad” the previous operating system was.”

Just a few days ago, reports surfaced that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 because of afault in the code of existing Windows and software applications: “Essentially, many software programs that have been updated to be compatible with each and every Windows upgrade since 1995 may have recycled a version of this code snippet to allow them to work with both Windows 95 and Windows 98. If Microsoft’s next OS had been named Windows 9, such software would have seen that the name starts with “Windows 9″ and could have confused the new operating system with Win 95 and 98. That could have created compatibility issues and caused the programs to stop working, or it could have led to version-check errors or other unknown problems.”

Microsoft isn’t commenting on that theory. Instead, the company has publicly statedthat it’s skipping ahead to Windows 10 to emphasize its effort to move forward. “Windows 10 represents the first step in a whole new generation of Windows,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s operating systems group.

Although the legacy code issue seems very plausible I’m still going to go with Microsoft. And here’s why: whether you call it Windows 9, Windows 10 or Windows 2015 it really doesn’t matter anymore. Microsoft knows this and doesn’t care as much about the version number anymore. Why?

The public is tired of new versions of operating systems. We don’t care as much anymore either about whether windows “snap” together more quickly or that the “Start” button is returning. There was a time, back when PCs were newer and the Rolling Stones were younger that each new release of Windows was an important event, a sign of progress, a declaration marking the advancement of technology. But that’s all changed. Today’s younger generation of people using devices never experienced these lavish product introductions and barely know who Mick Jagger is. Microsoft now understands this. The company doesn’t care about Windows 10, anymore than it cares about Windows “8” or “9.” Microsoft just cares about Windows. The version number is irrelevant.

Case in point: do you know what the most recent version of Android is on the market? (It’s KitKat 4.4). Do you know what version is running your phone? Did you know that all of Android’s operating systems are named after desserts? Sure, many in the tech community know this. But the typical user doesn’t. And doesn’t care. Nor do Apple users care as much about the latest and greatest features of iOS. They care more about their iPhone and iPads, how big (or small) they are and all the cool features and apps that make them more productive and smarter. The version of their device’s operating system version is of no consequence.

Microsoft and its CEO Satya Nadella has quickly adapted to this reality. By skipping an entire version number he’s almost ridiculing the convention. He’s changing the tradition. He’s calling into question the importance of the “version.” Nadella’s new direction for Microsoft is to make things work productively for their customers across all devices. Why else would he introduce a whole new version of Windows in such a laid back way – a press conference lead by two Microsoft nerds, rather than the parties and rock concerts of those long past days of yore. The days when operating systems took center stage are going away. We don’t want to worry about whether an application is compatible or not on our phone, tablet or PC. We just want it to work.

Windows 8? Windows 10?  It’s irrelevant. In the future, it’ll all just be…Windows.  Quiet and behind the scenes.

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