My thanks to WinInfo subscriber Jim Gradolph, who sent in this tremendous response to my opinion piece about Windows 2000 yesterday. I've gotten a ton of mail about this topic but this was clearly one of the best. Enjoy.
My take on the Windows NT 5.0 name change is rather different from \[Paul's\]. I've thought for the past two months that they would make this change. It stood to reason given the changing role of Windows NT. Thus I have had quite some time to think about whether I liked the change or not, and what the significance of the change would be.
While I started out feeling negative about the loss of the NT designation, I have gradually come to understand how favorable the name change is for NT and how inevitable it was if NT were to take its true place as Microsoft's flagship operating system. I have also come to understand how bad it would be for NT if the name change did not take place. Consequently, I am overjoyed that the name change finally has taken place!
The name change from Windows NT 5.0 to Windows 2000 indicates final victory for Windows NT within Microsoft Corporation. It means that NT has finally displaced DOS-based Windows as Microsoft's flagship operating system. It signifies that NT is no longer a variant that requires a modifier ("NT") to distinguish it from mainline Windows. It is the mainline Windows, from which future variants will have to be distinguished.
The name change is not a marketing gimmick, but an important rite of passage signifying to all parts of Microsoft (as well as to others outside of Microsoft) that NT has been anointed the king. "The king (DOS-Windows) is dead. Long live the king (Windows NT)". It is not a capricious act, but a well-thought-out logical progression.
I am convinced that the leaders of Microsoft fully understand the significance of the name change. They understand that while the new name may have been chosen for marketing reasons, the real significance of the name change is the anointing of NT as king, as the flagship Microsoft operating system. It would have been a real slap at NT if the name change had not occurred--an indication that NT's position within Microsoft was not as secure as we have been led to believe over the years.
We are free to decide whether we like the name "Windows" for an operating system. Personally I never have liked it very much as it is rather cutesy. Nevertheless, it is the name that Microsoft has chosen for its operating systems, and with the brand recognition and acceptance it has, they are not about to change it. It would most likely be very foolish of them to do so.
Likewise, we are free to decide whether we like versions of software systems named for years. Again, I personally prefer names like 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, etc., which I am used to, and I also think the year designations are rather cutesy. However, the year designations have been proven to sell software, and again Microsoft is not about to change a winning formula.
I have noticed even with my own clients that they are loath to upgrade from version 6.0 of a software package to version 7.0, and they have to be convinced at length that they need to make the upgrade. However, when the versions are identified as XYZ 97 and XYZ 98, it takes little effort to get them to upgrade. They want the latest, and they relate to the year designation. I seriously doubt that Windows 95 and Windows 98 would have sold anywhere near the volume they have sold if they had been called Windows 4.0 and Windows 5.0.
Microsoft is clearly going to name its flagship operating system "Windows (xx)xx". That has never really been in doubt. And Microsoft is clearly not going to miss a chance to use the 2000 designation. In popular opinion the new century and the new millennium start in 2000 (even if the new century and millennium really start in 2001, not 2000). How are people going to want to upgrade to Windows 2000 when Windows 98 seems two years old and part of the last century? Sure it's hokey marketing, but it is going to work. It is going to move people to move away from the DOS-based Windows and onto Windows NT much faster that the great technical superiority of NT ever would.
What hurts is the loss of the NT designation. Those of us that work every day in the guts of Windows NT love the NT designation and what it stand for in terms of capability, security, stability, and robustness. We will morn its loss, and we are right to do so. Nevertheless, the NT designation has lost its reason for being. Originally it proclaimed loudly, "This is an operating system built on new technology, not on clunky old DOS. This is the future." But times have changed and the battle is won. The name change
to Windows 2000 loudly proclaims, "This is no longer new technology for the future. This is now our current technology." Much as I love the designation "NT," I have to agree that its continued use would be both inappropriate and damaging to the prospects of the operating system.