Should Microsoft drop the numbers from Windows Phone?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: February 4, 2012

If you were to look at Windows Phone today, and the Windows Phone that Microsoft launched more than a year ago, you probably wouldn't be able to tell any difference. At least, not at face value. And that's just the way that Microsoft wants it. You shouldn't be able to tell the difference between the versions, and if you didn't pay any attention to hardware, you wouldn't be able to tell any difference between manufacturing partners. This is the route that Microsoft has chosen to emulate Apple, and it has worked for them. Windows Phone's simple and beautiful mobile operating system is unique in its simple and straightforward approach, and yet packs plenty of features that people love.

There's nothing wrong with the way that Microsoft has chosen to develop Windows Phone. The Live Tiles and Hubs are amazing, and as you watch notifications pop up in those Live Tiles and Hubs, you'll understand Microsoft's "glance-and-go" strategy with their brand new mobile OS. Sure, I do think that Themes would be a great new approach to Windows Phone, and I do think that some manufacturers out there should be allowed to customize the operating system in some way or another, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary. There's no denying that Windows Phone is definitely getting plenty of attention these days, so Microsoft's probably not going to change anything too drastic any time soon.

There is something that I think Microsoft should drop, though, and that would be the numbers. When Windows Phone was initially announced, if you'll remember, it was originally called Window Phone 7 Series. Thankfully Microsoft dropped that 'Series' from the title, and just moved forward with Windows Phone 7. And since then we've seen the release of two major updates to the mobile OS, both NoDo and Mango. With the update to the latter, Windows Phone was bumped up to 7.5, and now people are already talking about Windows Phone 8.

The way that Windows Phone is marketed, and the way that it is developed by Microsoft, I don't think numbers are all that necessary. This isn't iOS, which has been built upon a number more than even the platform's name. iPhone OS 3, iOS 4, iOS 5 -- these are just examples of how the number is more prominent than the name, because Apple makes it such a big deal with these numbers to correspond to larger updates. 5 was a huge update for iOS, and the same could be said for 4 and 3. You get the picture.

And Windows Phone isn't Android, either. And let's be honest, the update titling strategy for Android is a bit strange. Google has this series of codenames for their mobile platform that is focused on tasty desserts. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially because it works. But, at the same time, if you talk to a general consumer out there, you're very likely to get two answers when talking about software versions. Either a number or codename. Android 2.3 is Gingerbread; Android 3.0 is Honeycomb; and Android 4.0 is Ice Cream Sandwich. Before that we had Donut, Eclair and frozen yogurt (FroYo). I use both when I'm talking about Android software versions, but I know plenty of people who just stick to the codenames, completely foregoing the numbered version altogether.

For Windows Phone, Mango was the largest update so far. It added more than 500 features to the mobile OS, and it brought plenty of new unabashed attention to the platform. But it also brought Windows Phone to 7.5, which just seems weird for such a major release. We've got Windows Phone 8 right around the corner, and I think with such a huge jump in numbered hierarchy, this update needs to be even bigger than 7.5, because it's one whole version bigger than the initial Windows Phone 7. But, it won't be that big of an update.

Microsoft should keep the codenames. Drop the numbers, and keep the codenames. Keep the name Windows Phone, and implement the codenames to actually mean something more than any number could. Oh, you're running Windows Phone Apollo? That's awesome. Oh, you've got Windows Phone Tango! How lucky are you! This is one situation where Microsoft should take cues from Google, and stick to codenames, because they're more memorable if used the right way. Especially when they are unique and memorable.

It's just a thought. I honestly believe that when Windows Phone 8 launches, this would be the time that most consumers out there would think that the platform would see some major alterations, especially to the aesthetics. Maybe not look entirely different like the way that Android 2.3 looks different from Android 4.0, but something like that.