Microsoft says that it’s changing a key detail in Windows 10 that could break some applications for users upgrading their notebooks, 2-in-1s and desktops when it arrives next year.
Late last week Microsoft confirmed reports that it’d be changing the internal number that Windows 10 uses to identify itself to apps and services. It’s a small change, but one that could have huge consequences for Windows app makers and users alike.
“Developers preparing for Windows 10 should note that the Windows NT value in the UA string will change from 6.4 to 10.0 with the new release. If you have code that depends on the version number, we advise that you update to allow for the new value,” The MSDN page that confirms the change says.
Forget what you know about past versions of Windows. Microsoft has always used two names to identify each operating system. First there are the marketing names. Those are the names we know every major version of Windows by. Windows Vista and Windows 7 are marketing names. The Windows operating system uses a different name internally. This name is based on major changes to Windows. Windows Vista actually identifies itself as Windows 6 internally.
Most users don’t know about the second internal name because it hasn’t been mostly relevant in a long time. Windows Vista was the last time Microsoft changed the internal identifier for Windows in a big way. Windows 7 identified itself to apps and services as Windows 6.1. Windows 8 internally is Windows 6.2. Windows 8.1 is Windows 6.3. Those small incremental changes in the operating system version number were key because they allowed Microsoft to maintain app compatibility.
Apps would check the internal name of each of those operating systems and install thinking they were all small increments to the same operating system. Of course, these operating systems included huge changes for users, but to Desktop apps they were the same environment.
With Windows 10, Microsoft will move the version number to match the marketing name of Windows. By doing this Microsoft will unify the names of Windows 10 for everyone. This will cut down on confusion. It’ll also break any and every app that looks for that Windows 6 designation before installing. By announcing the change now, Microsoft hopes to get out in front of any coming crisis.
Developers of apps that explicitly check version numbers before installing will need to update their apps to check for the new version of Windows 10 when it arrives on store shelves. Until they do, their apps won’t work correctly in Windows 10. Luckily, Windows 10 isn’t expected in final form until next year. A Windows 10 Preview for everyday users and consumers should help ferret out any application compatibility issues long before the final version of the operating system launches.
It’s entirely possible Microsoft is changing the internal name of Windows 10 significantly because it wants a clean break from the expectations and reputations of past versions of Windows. Forcing developers to take that break seriously goes along with Microsoft choosing the name Windows 10 for the operating system.
Following the precedent it set with Windows 7 and Windows 8, the operating system should have been called Windows 9. Instead, Microsoft went with Windows 10 and skipped the number 9 altogether. Clearly, Microsoft was trying to distance itself from Windows 8 with that move too. Officially, Microsoft says that Windows 10 will be such a big evolution that it necessitated skipping to Windows 10.
Windows 10 will include a host of changes when it arrives on notebooks, laptops and tablets next year. Early versions of the operating system include a notification center, Windows Store apps that can run alongside Desktop apps like iTunes, a new Start Menu with Live Tiles and a unified app store. Windows 10 will run on the things that Windows 8 runs on today, plus smartphones and Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment console.
Windows 10 is expected to launch in final form sometime in 2015.