Names Or Numbers: How Should We Label Tech?

Names Or Numbers: How Should We Label Tech?

The names of technology releases are often anything but descriptive. Android distributions are christened after desserts (Ice Cream Sandwich); Mac OS X versions take their labels from big cats (Mountain Lion); Windows jumps arbitrarily between years (95), labels (XP) and numbers (8). Which do you prefer?

Picture by Abul Hussain

Any product that has multiple versions will have a version number, something that’s especially evident with software. However, it’s increasingly rare for that to be the main focus when it comes to discussing a product. We’re much more likely to say Mountain Lion than 10.8, or Jelly Bean than Android 4.1. The numbers are a slightly more accurate reflection how the product has evolved, but it’s easier to market cuteness than accuracy.

Anyway, I’m wondering: which naming convention do you think is best?

[polldaddy poll=6425422]

Feel free to expand on your viewpoint in the comments.


  • I don’t really care, but what I hate is when companies jump numbers to try to sound bigger. Like how BlackBerry jumped from 7 to 10, or when MS jumped from Xbox to “360”. If you’re going to use numbers just add 1 at a time!

    • Yeah, Microsoft sure pulled the wool over our eyes. I for one, TOTALLY thought it meant the 360th version of the XBox. Luckily crusaders like Halario here are shining the light on this for the rest of us.

  • I’d rather a name of some sort, since they’re all going to have a version number anyway. At least that way, you don’t get confusing situations like Windows, where version 6.1 is marketed as “Windows 7”, and version 6.2 is marketed as “Windows 8”. Ugh.

  • Why is there not a “Combination” option?

    Galaxy S, S2, S3, names and numbers. OSX Mountain Lion, Snow Lion, Lion Lion, Liger Lion (I don’t really know or care about Apple’s naming scheme, so whatever)

  • Numbers aren’t sustainable. What happens when you get to version 26? It’s odd to say, hard to remember, and the implied differences between 26 and 27 are minimal. What happens at version 129, or 2443? I know software doesn’t typically reach versions this high (maybe for the reasons above) – but our naming conventions like our software should account for improbabilities.

      • Sure, but Chrome has a very incremental lifecycle, rather than less frequent major releases.. I’m not using “Google Chrome 21”, I’m using “Google Chrome”, which just happens to be on version 21. It updates silently in the background, usually without the user even knowing.

  • Thinking about ATI and AMD here, their numbering system is bloody annoying. Can never figure out if the model is old or new. I’m sure there are a lot of others out there.

    • ^ THIS!!

      I can’t stand manufacturers that use names like “7500 GT” or “Q9500M” for example (not actual products, but you see my reference).
      They have no real meaning, and is just some huge number which is supposed to impress people. It’s pathetic, and has no meaning at all.

      • Actually.. The first letters and first number denote the series (which also have names that aren’t shown), the second number denotes which model in that series (which isn’t chronological, but sorted by capabilities/power/specs/etc), and letters at the end of that number usually means it’s a modified version of the original (for example, some are pre-overclocked or silent versions).

        • I thought nvidia was one of the only device guys who make sense. the ‘hundreds digit’ is the series and the ‘tens digit’ is how good it is. 680 is awesome but a 620 while new is terrible. I assume they will make a 700 series soon and it will be the same

  • Numbers will always be there in the back end, names definitely have advantages over just having numbers

    Android’s system works well because there is a logical order to them (alphabetical). So, you know the one starting with I came before the one starting with J, and that K will be next (Key Lime Pie).

    Apple’s is ridiculous purely because there’s no way of making sense of the order.

  • I prefer numbers or at least some sort of logical alpha numeric system.
    I’m an engineer so I deal with version numbers all the time.

    v1.0 –> V2.0 is a massive version jump – eg like from froyo to gingerbread.
    V1.0 –> v1.1 would be a minor update
    v1.0 –> v1.0.1 would be something like a bug fix update.
    This system leaves plenty of numbers for years worth of updates. Even if you do a whole new version every year, that’s at least 10 years before you reach numbers high enough to be annoying. And with the life cycle of most software/hardware these days, I doubt this would be a problem.

    Using alphabetical names is ok too but only if people know about it. The OSx big cats is stupid, but iOS V5 or whatever it is now, makes perfect sense.
    When I talk about android I talk about v4.1 or v3.2 or whatever, not the names. Also because within one name cycle there can be various versions…. It just gets confusing.

  • Don’t forget Ubuntu has been doing this for eons. From Dapper Drake (and a few non-sequentials before that) to the upcoming Quantal Quetzal.

  • Dates. Just use dates! Today is 20120731. February 25th, 2011 is
    20110225. It gives the most possible information in the fewest
    possible characters.

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