Even a chimp can write code

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Making sense of Windows code names

There's been much ado in the press about the recent branding of Windows code-named "Longhorn" to Windows Vista. Some people have jeered the new name, claiming Longhorn was somehow better. One has to understand that when you work on products, you are working with a bunch of ideas. Everything starts with vapor and you slowly flesh things out. The branding exercise comes toward the end. There are a lot of logistics involved in coining a name like Vista. Teams of people are often involved, scouring registered trademarks, looking at colloquial meanings, making sure the chosen word isn't offensive to customers' sensibilities, ensuring the name depicts the goals of the product and resonates with focus groups etc. The bar is just not high enough for internal codenames though.

I have a partial list of the progression of code names for Windows Client family products:

  • Janus: Windows 3.1

  • Chicago: Windows 95

  • Memphis: Windows 98

  • Millenium: Windows Me

  • Daytona: Windows NT 3.5

  • Cairo: Windows NT 4.0

  • Whistler: Windows XP

  • Longhorn: Windows Vista

  • Blackcomb: the next big thing

The last three are interesting. Whistler was named after Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. Likewise Blackcomb was named after Blackcomb Mountain nearby. It's as if Whistler is where we were with XP and Blackcomb is where we want to be in the not too long term. I've heard that Longhorn was named after a bar on the way from Whistler to Blackcomb. And that makes sense. Metaphorically, it is a rest stop on our way to the destination.

Similar logic was probably used when the names Whidbey (Visual Studio 2005), Fidalgo (Visual Studio 2005 Extensions for WinFX) and Orcas (the next VS rev with tools support) were coined: all islands in the straits off the northwest of WA state.

For those who despair the renaming of Longhorn, I have this to say: just about nobody remembers Whistler (the codename) anymore. People are perfectly comfortable calling it XP. The same will happen to Longhorn. Besides, it isn't the name, rather what's in the product that makes the difference.


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  • Vista sounds much better for me! I don't understand persons being in a rage of renaming Longhorn to Vista.
    Nobody even remember Whidbey code name calling the product Visual Studio 2005.

    By Anonymous gaidar, at July 27, 2005 at 7:12 AM  

  • When I first read about the new name it felt really bad, but after a few hours I started to like it. ;)

    Btw, the version after Orcas is going to be called "Hawaii".

    By Anonymous Mikael Söderström, at July 30, 2005 at 3:58 PM  

  • Excuse me, but isn't XP a fusion of Neptune, Odyssey and Whistler?

    By Anonymous A.A.Z., at August 3, 2005 at 1:27 PM  

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