New versions of Windows are subject to enough analysis, hype and speculation without reading too much into Microsoft's thought process when deciding upon official brand names. So forgive me for doing exactly that following the company's decision to reveal the official branding of Windows Vista's successor.
The OS that previously went by the codename 'Windows 7' will be officially known as 'Windows 7' when it launches in 18 months or so. Microsoft has ditched its strategy to come up with catchy, and sometimes perplexing, product names for its next desktop OS, and gone back to the future with a naming convention it hasn't used since the early nineties (since Windows 3x). And that can only be a good thing.
Whereas three versions of Windows were named by the year in which they were released (Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000), it's perhaps sensible for Microsoft not to commit to Windows 2010 for its next OS, given the delays in getting Vista out the door. Meanwhile, Windows NT (New Technology) and Windows XP (eXPerience) seemed a little pretentious.
Then we have Vista. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines Vista as 'a pleasing view' - perhaps a reference to the snazzy Aero interface, which turned out to be the source of much displeasure; or 'a mental view of an imagined future event or situation' - I think we all had a mental image of what Vista would be, but it didn't come to fruition.
So, now we have Windows 7 - a product name which doesn't promise anything other than, perhaps, a back-to-basics approach to OS design. Which would have been enough to kill the hype, had Microsoft not made the following comment: "Simply put, this is the seventh release of Windows", said Microsoft general manager Mike Nash, referring to what will be anything from the eighth or ninth version of Windows, depending on how you look at it.
For more analysis/speculation as to why Windows 7 is called Windows 7, see AeroExperience.