What’s in a name?
If Redmond maintains the trend, rest assured you'll know what to call "Longhorn."
- By Em C. Pea
- December 01, 2002
Medieval demonologists believed that to know the true name of a demon
was to have power over it. Not to take an analogy between demons and operating
systems too far, but Auntie was thinking about this the other day while
musing on the latest bit of naming spin to come out of Redmond. The operating
system formerly known as Whistler (and later as Windows 2002 and Windows
.NET Server) has now settled down to life as Windows .NET Server 2003.
Now, I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but “Em C. Pea”
isn’t really Auntie’s name. Somewhere between my college track meets and
my multinational consulting stints, I realized that a nom de plume would
serve me well. There are times when one’s life needs to be compartmentalized.
So, alas, even though you might have been at the same table with me and
Fabio at one of those fabulous TechMentor luncheons, you weren’t tipped
off by our goopy endearments—though a few of you have written in with
But that’s just me. Microsoft’s marketers have no interest in hiding
their latest and greatest operating system from public view. One presumes
that every piece of that name was chosen with care, over many late-night,
pizza-fueled meetings (or do the marketers still get Chateaubriand, even
in these post-dot-com times?). With that in mind, what can we divine from
the new name?
Windows, of course, is the franchise. Microsoft has spent a billion
dollars (give or take) promoting and protecting that name for its operating
systems. Despite the recent ruling by the judge in the Lindows trademark
case (suggesting that, perhaps, “Windows” isn’t a term that can be trademarked),
Microsoft has no intention of abandoning this franchise without a fight.
Someday, perhaps, there will be another tectonic shift in Redmond, and
a new OS will replace Windows. After all, in the beginning there was DOS
(and there was also that dalliance with OS/2 a few years back). But expect
the launch-event-to-end-all-launch-events when that day comes.
.NET is this year’s branding—and probably the branding for the
next few years as well. With the inclusion of the .NET Framework and IIS
6.0, at least this product has a legitimate claim to the name (something
that can’t be as easily said about the rebranding of the BackOffice servers).
Of course, Microsoft would also love it if you decided that all your .NET
applications had to host its server-side components on its own operating
system, so a little naming judo in this area can’t hurt. Be prepared to
explain to the V.P. why Oracle on Linux is a perfectly good place to store
data even if your client pieces are .NET on Windows, though.
Server means that this is the real operating system, the one we
serious IT pros have been waiting for. After all, we’ve already had the
first fruits of Whistler on the desktop for a year, in the flashy form
of Windows XP. But how many CIOs want to run mission-critical services
on something with a flashy name like that? Might as well try to transport
hogs to market in a Ferrari 456M GT (yes, I’ve been eyeing new cars again).
For heavy transport, you want a Mack truck. That’s what “server” is supposed
to say to you.
2003 indicates that once Microsoft learns a lesson, it never forgets.
Remember Windows 95 and Office 95? They launched in August 1995 and didn’t
ship in quantity until the end of the year—which means that by the time
corporations could buy them, the name already had a vaguely obsolete sound.
That will never happen again. Now, Microsoft products launch at the end
of the year with the next year’s moniker to maximize their up-to-dateness.
And salespeople will leverage that to the hilt: “It’s 2003—why are you
still running a 2000 operating system?”
There’s one last consequence of this name game: Every computer book author
in the world is busy with the search-and-replace feature of their word
processor, trying to keep up with Microsoft as the new volumes work their
way through galley proofs. Believe me, I sympathize with their annoyance
every time I sign a check as Ms. Pea and the teller at my bank looks at
me funny. This naming stuff is complicated, even for a simple gal like
Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.