The official name of the next version of Windows is Windows 7. No marketing names like Vista or XP. You can read more about it here.
But despite the name this definitely comes off as being a marketing move. The underlying code version is called version 6.1 (not 7) just like Windows XP had a codebase of v5.1 and Windows 2000, v5. Microsoft’s reasoning is that “Windows 7 is a significant and evolutionary advancement of the client operating system.” Now that may be true – I have not seen a feature list yet – but the core of the system is still only an iteration of Vista, hence the v6.1 moniker.
There are two ways to look at this. The first is that with Vista going down like a tonne of bricks, releasing a new version called v6.1 does not sound as much of a step forward as Microsoft needs it to be. So the next release is going to have a marketing version number instead.
The other way to look at this is to place a small amount of belief in Windows 7 being a big step forward (hmm..) and look at Windows in a different way – a 7th generation front with a 6th generation backend. The idea behind the backend (code) version is to provide compatibility to software. Most software on Windows uses the initial version number to decide whether the software can run or not. So Moving from XP (v5.1) to Vista (v6) required a big amount of effort just as moving from Windows 98 (v4.10.2222) was when we all moved to Windows 2000 (v5). Microsoft are saying this is purely for compatibility but I think not. To overhaul Vista architecture would be a huge undertaking and with little benefit. You can bet the backend will be more stable though as the v6 codebase matures and the code on top of this core could be very different with lots of cloud based services so if you believe (in Microsoft), then it makes sense to separate the versioning because this behind the scenes compatibility requirement has little to do with the consumer – they are only interested in whether it is a big new release worth splurging their cash on or not.
One thing is certain though – Windows 7 is a simple and boring name..