Microsoft has inconsistently followed a marketing strategy of using basic, descriptive, one-word names. Word is an excellent example. So are Money and Office.
The name Windows fits into that philosophy. At the time of its original release late in 1985, most operating systems were single-tasking, text-only, and ran from a command line--like DOS if you remember that. Graphic user interfaces (GUIs) were still new. The Mac, less than two years old at that time, was the only GUI-based system enjoying commercial success. The word windows simply described one of the most obvious differences between a GUI and a command-line interface.
Of course, the name was never officially Windows, but Microsoft Windows. From the company's point of view, that's important. You can't trademark a common word like windows all by itself. (I suppose they could have trademarked Slow and Buggy Windows, but I guess that didn't get passed the Marketing Department.)
These one-word Microsoft names can cause some interesting mind associations. During that brief, pre-Internet time when everyone was publishing reference books on CD-ROM, the folks in Redmond released a CD called Microsoft Dogs. I thought it was a bundle of Microsoft Money and Microsoft Bob.
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Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at [email protected], or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.