What happened to Windows 9? What is this Windows 9 about?

What happened to Windows 9? Why Did Microsoft Skip Windows 9? When Windows 10 was first announced, everyone immediately had one burning question to ask Microsoft concerning the freshly rejigged OS. And that question was: “Uhh, what the hell happened to Windows 9?”

Windows 8 followed sequentially on from Windows 7, but somehow, Windows 9 got skipped – and it seems that’s something Redmond isn’t afraid to joke about, via Joe Belfiore’s and other Microsoft staff members’ T-shirts.

Yes, Business Insider reports that Belfiore (who is Corporate VP of Operating Systems at Microsoft) was snapped wearing the special T-shirt at the Build conference last week, with the garment bearing a binary-coded message that enterprising developer Kevin Gosse deciphered by scrutinising the photo.

So what did it say? Well, there were four sentences in binary in each quadrant of the Windows logo on the shirt, one of which ‘explained’ the fate of Windows 9.

What happened to Windows 9?

Microsoft themselves haven’t exactly been transparent with the reasoning behind its choice to go up to 10. The current official line is much like with the Xbox One, and portions of the Office Suite (OneDrive for instance) that 10 represented a whole.

Windows 10 – before 11’s release – was intended to be Microsoft’s last major numbered release. A single platform that would continuously be updated for the foreseeable future. According to the Vice President of Windows Marketing, Tony Prophet, Windows 9 didn’t represent that in the name, and it wasn’t an “incremental step from Windows 8.1”.

Windows 9

Theories on why Windows 9 never released

However, is that all there is to it? Some forum threads and speculation have pinned Microsoft’s name change decision on its being related to codebases used on Windows systems.

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The theory stems from a Reddit comment from a now-deleted account. According to the “Microsoft dev”, the reason is that some third-party products have the following code:

if(version.StartsWith(“Windows 9”))
{ /* 95 and 98 */
} else {

With this in mind, it could become confusing for software thinking that the operating system wasn’t compatible due to it not recognizing the difference between older 95 and 98 systems and a new one simply called “Windows 9”.

Why Did Microsoft Skip Windows 9?

When Windows 10 first launched, multiple theories intending to explain the rationale behind Microsoft’s decision to skip the number 9 popped up.

For instance, one of the more widespread and plausible ones was from a Redditor. Allegedly, many legacy programs use “Windows 9” as a reference to Windows 95 and 98 in their code. To avoid widespread technical issues, Microsoft decided to call the new OS “Windows 10”.

While this reason makes sense, it is not official. The reasons we have from official sources describe the motivation behind Microsoft skipping Windows 9 as simple marketing.

According to acclaimed Microsoft insider Mary Jo Foley, the company went with “Windows 10” because it wanted to signify that the OS would be the last major Windows update. So, the number 10 was a way of saying “hey, this is it, and there’d be no more Windows X releases”.

As we now know, Windows 10 wasn’t the last version after all. Microsoft released Windows 11 last year. But if we look a little closer, the release of Windows 11 may also have largely been a marketing move. For all intents and purposes, Windows 11 is just Windows 10 in disguise.

Did Forgoing Windows 9 In Favor Of Windows 10 Pay Off?

Say what you will about Windows 10, it was a commercial success. Even though it was buggy and unfinished at the start, Microsoft did fix almost all the issues.

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In other words, skipping Windows 9 for Windows 10 did pay off.

Windows 9

A Major Break From 8; “Windows One” Was Unavailable

While under development, Microsoft referred to Windows 10 as “Threshold,” after a planet in the fictional Halo universe. Meanwhile, the press assumed the next major version of Windows would be called “Windows 9.” And yet on September 30, 2014, Microsoft surprised us all by announcing “Windows 10” instead. The reason why had a lot to do with the previous major version of Windows, Windows 8.

Windows 8, while innovative, wasn’t well-received. It was generally regarded as an embarrassing flop from Microsoft. Windows 8.1, launched in 2013, fixed some (but not all) of its most unpopular features in recognition that Windows 8 wasn’t an ideal release.

In naming “Windows 10,” the firm wanted to show that Threshold was not just an upgrade or continuation of the unpopular technology found in Windows 8. Windows 10 would be a clean break with a new major version. Also, Microsoft envisioned Threshold as a “wave” of operating systems that would apply to desktops, tablets, Windows Phone, and Xbox One while adapting the UI to each device in an ideal way.

Interestingly, Microsoft has had very little to say officially about skipping over Windows 9. During the 2014 Windows 10 launch event (as reported by ExtremeTech since the video is currently unavailable), Windows Chief Terry Myerson gave some important clues about the company’s thinking: “We know, based on the product that’s coming, and just how different our approach will be overall,” he said. “It wouldn’t be right to call it Windows 9.”

Also, Myerson gave another clue that the firm might have wanted to name the release “Windows One,” but was foiled by the existence of Windows 1.0 (way back in 1985). According to ExtremeTech, Myerson mentioned that Windows One would make sense in the context of OneNote, OneDrive, and Xbox One, but “unfortunately Windows 1 has been done by the giants that came before us.”

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So if Windows One was taken, we speculate, why not add a zero and call it Windows 10? In the world of marketing, there are no hard logical rules for naming products, so this explanation seems as good as any.

An Unofficial Reason: Windows 9x Compatibility Issues

Still, Microsoft’s somewhat vague (“It came and went”) official explanations haven’t satisfied everyone, so alternative theories remain. And here’s a doozy: On the very day of the Windows 10 announcement, someone on Reddit claiming to be a Microsoft developer wrote that Microsoft avoided “Windows 9” because it might confuse programs checking for Windows 95 or Windows 98, two previous Windows releases from the 1990s.

(Imagine a vintage Windows program written in the 1990s checking for “Windows 9*” then finding “Windows 9” and thinking it’s running on Windows 95, for example.)

With Microsoft’s famous commitment to backward compatibility—and a proven history with version number check shenanigans—the claim seemed plausible enough to make the rounds on many news sites at the time. Windows fans who are in the know might immediately poke holes in this theory, considering that Windows 95’s official version number wasn’t “Windows 95.” A well-written program doing a version check would actually see a version number of 4.00.95 (and up), and for Windows 98, it would see 4.10.1998 (and up). So the explanation doesn’t seem to hold much water.

But wait: Not all programs are well-written, and people have found evidence of existing legacy code written in Java that checks for Windows version by looking at the string name of the OS instead of the version number. (We have found some as well: here are two examples.) So there may be some truth to the Reddit claim after all. What we don’t know is whether that influenced Microsoft’s naming decision or not, but considering Microsoft’s history of bending over backwards to not break compatibility, it’s very possible.

Windows 9

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