1507 1511 1607 1703

Ever since the Windows 10 November Update, Microsoft has been giving their updates a version number. They did it for the Anniversary Update and the Creators Update and will do it again for Redstone 3. They even did it retroactively for the original Windows 10 release.

Many people are asking: why is the Creators Update not version 1704? The answer to that is often “because the version doesn’t reference the release, it references the compilation”. Here is the thing: it doesn’t.

Version YYMM

With Windows 10, wanted to Microsoft set out to release 3 updates every year. That didn’t work, so they dialed it back to 2 updates, while 2016 was left with just one. 2015 and 2017 both have 2 updates, or are expected to have. However, that required that people could easily identify a Windows 10 version.

Here is the problem: Microsoft gave Windows 10 names like “November Update”, “Anniversary Update” and “Creators Update”, but these names don’t identificatie order. By looking at them, you don’t know which version is the oldest and which is the newest. They are just marketing names, after all.

There is however another identifier: the build string. But “10.0.15063.0 (rs2_release.170317–1834)” is hard to remember. For a matter of fact, you won’t see Windows reference it like that anywhere. Instead, you will often see just “10.0.10240.16384”, “10.0.10586.0”, “10.0.14393.0” or “10.0.15063.0”. But these numbers are, despite already being shorter, still hard to remember. They do fix the order-issue, but they do not show relative distance (if you want to call it like that).

Que the time-based version number. Use the last 2 digits of the year (according to the Georgian Calendar, of course) and the month-number formatted as a 2-digit number (also according to the Georgian Calendar, dhu). The result is a number like 1703, which stands for 2017, month 03 (March).

What it doesn’t indicate

And that’s where things get tricky. Let’s take a look. We’ve got…

1507, referencing July 2015
1511, referencing November 2015
1607, referencing July 2016
1703, referencing March 2017

Here is the thing, the first thing you would look at is that these version reference the date they where released in. But you would be wrong:

1507, referencing July 2015 was released in that month
1511, referencing November 2015 was released in that month
1607, referencing July 2016 was released in August 2016*
1703, referencing March 2017 was released in April 2017*

*Although their first appearances where on Xbox where both 1607 and 1703 where in fact released in the months they reference. However, Windows 10 version 1607 for Xbox was actually called 1608: Xbox has its own unique version number, separate from the other platforms. There is also a 1704 for Xbox, just like there is a 1603, 1604, 1610, etc.

The 2 most recent releases don’t follow the rule. Things do not add up. Strange. So… then it must be the date the final build was compiled in, right? Well…

1507, referencing July 2015 was compiled in that month
1511, referencing November 2015 was compiled in October 2015
1607, referencing July 2016 was compiled in that month
1703, referencing March 2017 was compiled in that month

That doesn’t add up either. The very first version of Windows to actually use this versioning system already would violate that rule.

So… what is it based on?

Here is the thing: it isn’t based on either. The version number isn’t referencing the compilation date nor the release date. The fact is that, just like the names given to these updates, this version number doesn’t actually matter. It isn’t even a real version number. It’s just arbitrary number. Microsoft could have used the actual names of the month and year these numbers represent and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

So where do these numbers come from? Well, I would argue that they are just a glimpse to the past, to what was supposed to happen. Microsoft had already settled on “version 1703” long before they could have known when the development of the Creators Update would be done. Documentation already started to use it, so instead of updating all documentation spread throughout Microsofts website, they just didn’t bother calling it 1704, but went with 1703 instead: it was already being used everywhere. And that was probably equally true for 1607, at some point Microsoft likely hoped to release the Anniversary Update on 29 July 2016 but just missed that target date.

Likely they already have a number for the Redstone 3 update. We mostly expect it to be version 1711 right now. But it is to early for Microsoft to know for sure that they will make that date. People could already start writing documentation for version 1711, despite the chance that it might release in December 2017, heck, it could even be released in January 2018 (or October 2017, or whatever Microsoft decides… you get the point).

Either way, it is based on hope and expectations. Nothing else.

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