Windows 10 Name Change Reasons and Theories: Why Did Microsoft Skip Windows 9 From Windows 8?

October 2, 2014 Updated: October 2, 2014

Microsoft recently announced Windows 10, and there is plenty of speculation about why “Windows 9” was passed over. 

Officially, Microsoft claims it is skipping from Windows 8 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, to the Associated Press.

Microsoft also told Gizmodo that: “Windows 10 carries Windows forward into a new way of doing things.

“It is not an incremental change, but a new Windows that will empower the next billion users.”

Clearly, Microsoft wishes to put some distance between their current operating system, Windows 8, from their latest project. 

Indeed, there has been plenty of criticism leveled at Windows 8 for trying to do everything across all platforms, but ends up being a “messy product” that alienated even long-time fans (Microsoft enthusiast Paul Thurrott declared that Windows 8 “is a disaster in every sense of the word”). 

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. 

Yet Windows Vista to Windows 7 is a switch from letters to a number. It is hard to imagine how much of a distraction skipping a number would be.  In fact, if Windows 10 doesn’t turn out to be the operating system people expect it to be, the attempt to disassociate it from Windows 8 could backfire more disastrously. 

MORE: Windows 10 Technical Preview Details, Features and Release

Moving away from interpreting the official line, there are a couple of theories being thrown up with varying degrees of plausibility.

One is that Microsoft avoided the number 9 so as not to lose its large presence in Japan. Apparently, “9” is an unlucky number in Japan, and Microsoft might be taking cultural sensitivities into account with its business decision. 

There is even a tech precedent in avoiding the number 9 bogey in Japan. ExtremeTech reader Benny told the site that a couple of years back, Japanese company Trend Micro skipped version 9 of its anti-virus software to avoid any potential problems. 

However, the “Japan cultural sensitivity” theory doesn’t seem very plausible because Microsoft is a global brand, and it seems highly unlikely that the Redmond-based company would make such a huge decision based on one market alone.  

Another theory is that Microsoft is secretly celebrating their ten major consumer releases of Windows. That might make sense, at least until considering that Windows 10 is actually the eleventh version of Windows, so Windows 11 might be a more logical choice. 

MORE: How to Download, Install, and Uninstall Windows 10 Technical Preview

One of the more plausible explanations has been mooted by Reddit user cranbourne, who claims to be a Microsoft developer. 

Cranbourne says that plenty of third party products use the code, “if(version.StartsWith(“Windows 9″)) { /* 95 and 98 */ } else {” in their software to allow them to work with both Windows 95 and Windows 98. 

So if Microsoft went ahead with “Windows 9,” it would end up making most software think that the new operating system is a late 1990’s operating system instead, which would then cause compatibility issues. 

Thus, the Windows 10 moniker was really a “pragmatic solution to avoid that,” according to cranbourne. 

“Having worked on the Windows compatibility team before, I have no difficulty believing this,” Reddit user richkzad wrote in response. 

All the theories thrown up may be totally false, but one thing’s certain — Microsoft is becoming interesting again.