Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, wore a shirt to the 2015 Build conference with binary code in a Windows logo, and a shrewd developer deciphered the message.

It read: “Windows 10, because 7 8 9”.

When spoken out loud, it is the humorous answer to one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind since the announcement of Windows 10 – “What happened to Windows 9?”

Microsoft Windows Version History

The 1990 release of Windows version 3 was the first Windows release that gained commercial success.  A little-known fact is that there actually were two earlier editions: Windows version 1 which debuted 1985 and Windows version 2 that came out in 1987.

In 1995, Microsoft dropped the numeric version number in its marketing with the release of Windows 95 (the successor to Windows 3.x) but the OS reported as version 4.

Windows 98 (version 4.1) and Windows ME (version 4.9) were updates to Windows 95 that added additional hardware drivers and software.  The 1996 release of the enterprise version of the Windows was named NT 4 which was consistent with the reported version of NT 4.0.

Windows 2000 (version 5.0), released in February of 1999, continued the practice of naming releases after the year.  But, with the unveiling of Windows XP (version 5.1) in 2001, Microsoft went back to using a mnemonic in the name – the XP is meant to invoke the eXPerience of using Windows.  Windows Vista (version 6), released in 2006, kept the concept of naming the release with an aspirational title.

In 2009, Microsoft returned to numeric releases with Windows 7.  Interestingly, Windows 7 actually reports as Version 6.1.  Windows 8, released in 2012, identifies as version 6.2 and Windows 8.1 as version 6.3.

In 2014, Windows 10 technical preview releases reported their version as 6.4.  But, when the consumer preview edition was released in early 2015, the version number was bumped to 10 to match the marketing version.

Why There Is No Windows 9

There are a number of theories as to why Microsoft decided not to use Windows 9 as the name of the most recent release.  One theory is that many legacy programs check for the number 9 in the Windows version string to identify Windows 95 and 98 and, so to avoid compatibility issues, version 9 was skipped.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft EVP of Windows, noted during the Windows 10 launch that it might have been reasonable to call it Windows One to match the Xbox One and OneDrive and OneNote but, while displaying a photo of a young Bill Gates on the large video screen behind him, noted that Windows 1 has been done before.

Naming the new OS Windows 10 implies a bigger separation from Windows 8 than may actually be the case.  But Microsoft, with the Windows 10 name, may be trying to make the case that the new version of Windows really is something significantly different.

Windows 10 is also the first version of WAAS or “Windows as a Service”.  Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will be the “last version of Windows”.  What they mean by this is that the operating system will be continually updated with new features to keep the OS current with evolving hardware and services. With the advent of “Windows as a Service”, expect Windows 10 to be with us for the foreseeable future.


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