What Happen to ‘9’?

Is ‘9’ suddenly an unlucky number in the tech world? Microsoft released Windows 10 after Windows 8/8.1. Apple recently released the iPhone 8 and announced the forthcoming iPhone X. In the past couple days, has come word of Samsung announcing the successor of the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy X Folding Phone. Apple and Samsung both are skipping version ‘9’ of their flagship phones. So, what gives?

Well, we have Microsoft to thank (or blame) for skipping 9. It was Microsoft that two years ago, started with releasing Windows 10. They even were the first one to represent ‘10’ with the Roman Numeral ‘X’. But wait, it’s branded ‘Windows 10’ not ‘Windows X’? True, but anyone who had to deal with removing Microsoft’s malware….I mean ‘Windows 10 free (forced) upgrade’ from their Windows 7 or 8 systems had to find kill a process plus remove files and folders all named GWX (Get Windows 10). So, now why did Microsoft skip 9 and go straight to 10?

I’ve heard a couple theories on this and both are plausible and have their merits. The first has to do with the naming and numbering of Windows. Twenty-two years ago in August 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95 which was the successor to Windows 3.1. In May of 1998, Windows 98 was released followed by Windows 98 SE about a year later. In June 2000, the short-lived Windows ME (Millennium Edition) was released. For those who are wondering or think they recall, yes there was a ‘Windows 2000’ which came out in late 1999. In my opinion Microsoft made a huge mistake here with the naming of this particular release of Windows. This was technically Windows NT 5.0 and during development it was branded as such. However, once release Microsoft renamed it to Windows 2000. This naming confused people as the Windows NT series (Enterprise) was much different from the Windows 9x series (95, 98 and ME). On a side note, Windows Server 2003 (NT 5.2) was the successor to Windows 2000 and Microsoft has kept with this naming scheme with the releases of Server 2008/2008 R2 (NT 6.0/6.1), Server 2012 (NT 6.2) and Server 2016 (NT 10.0). Notice again how Microsoft skipped ‘9’ (along with 7 and 8) in the Windows NT version numbering.

So back to the theory, there was some concern that legacy software might see Windows 9 as Windows 95 or 98 or even ME. That theory seems a little farfetched in that would people really try to install 15-20-year-old software on a Windows 9/10 machine. But then again, look at how many people (and businesses) are still using Windows XP.  This is somewhat similar to the much ado about nothing Y2K scare some 20+ years ago, in the way the Windows version number is encoded within the Windows software as well as how many developers may have poorly coded the version check. This makes sense given that Windows 95, 98 and ME were the ‘Windows 9x’ series. Someone claiming to be a Microsoft developer posted this comment on Reddit:

The other theory tends to be more of a marketing gimmick. Microsoft wanted to promote Windows 10 as a major upgrade/improvement from the disaster (those who claim Windows 8 was a disaster must have never used Windows Vista) of Windows 8/8.1, thus skipping ‘9’. Of course Microsoft created a bigger disaster with the way they handled forced the free upgrade to WIndows 10 on unsuspecting Windows 7 and 8.1 users. Nonetheless, this theory seems just as plausible, especially since Apple and Samsung have jumped on the bandwagon with their forthcoming iPhone X and Galaxy X.

I do believe that skipping Windows 9 really has more to do with avoiding possible conflicts with some software falsely detecting Windows 9 as being part of the Windows 9x series. However, from a non-technical (marketing) standpoint ‘This is a substantial and vastly improved Windows!’ reasoning is what Microsoft is selling everyone on. However, I doubt Microsoft would have thought that skipping ‘9’ would become a marketing gimmick as much as it has.