Windows software by any other name?

Microsoft may be plunging into the name game, discarding an old habit of naming products based on dates such as Windows 95, Windows 2000 and Office 2000.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
3 min read
What's in a name? A lot of confusion, at least for Microsoft.

With its next-generation Windows and Office products, Microsoft is expected to adopt a new and untried naming convention, according to sources. The company is expected to announce the change next week.

The WinInfo Windows enthusiast Web site is reporting that Microsoft is planning to name Office 10, the next version of Office for Windows, "Office XP."

Other independent sources claiming familiarity with Microsoft's Office plans said they also had heard that Microsoft has decided to use the Office XP name for Office 10. But one source close to the company said that Microsoft will not re-brand the individual products comprising the Office 10 suite with the XP moniker. Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002 and other individual applications will continue to use Microsoft's year-based naming conventions, the source said.

A representative of Microsoft's Office team declined to comment on the Office XP name.

In a related move, according to WinInfo, Microsoft also is planning to designate the Whistler Windows 2000 successor as "Windows XP." The Personal and Professional desktop versions of Whistler are expected to ship this year, with server versions to follow by several months.

A representative of the Windows team did not respond by press time to a request for comment on the Windows XP rumor.

Are you experienced?
While WinInfo and others are speculating that XP stands for "experience" or "experienced," other claims are circulating on why Microsoft is moving to the XP designation.

XML Protocol, or XP, also happens to be the Worldwide Web Consortium's name for SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), messaging that Microsoft and a handful of partners are championing. SOAP, which specifies how XML data is transferred over the Web, is key to Microsoft's software-as-a-service strategy, called Microsoft .Net.

And, coincidentally or not, Microsoft is holding a preview of its Whistler Beta 2 code for press and analysts Feb. 13 at the Experience Music Project museum, leading analysts to wonder if the Jimi Hendrix song "Are you experienced?" will become the anthem for Office, just as the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up," became the theme song for Windows 95.

Ever since the Redmond, Wash.-based company moved to a product-naming convention based on dates, such as Windows 95, Windows 2000 and Office 2000, the company has battled product-naming confusion.

For example, Windows 2000: The next generationwhen Microsoft was working on naming its newest consumer Windows release last year, it ended up going with Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), because it had already used the Windows 2000 designation for its business-oriented family of products, which also debuted last year.

On the Office side, Microsoft has been wrestling with what to call Office 10, as it is using the Office 2001 name for the new Mac version of its Office suite. Sources said that Microsoft also did not want to call Office 10 "Office.Net," since the Office 10 suite will be only loosely tied to the company's .Net strategy. Microsoft is, however, using the .Net naming convention with its forthcoming version of its Visual Studio tool suite, which the company has said it will call "Visual Studio.Net."