Microsoft codenames: A visual history

In its 37 years, Microsoft has not only created technologies that have shaped our world, it has also offered up some of the most memorable codenames in the tech business.

Opus Word for Windows
Opus (Word for Windows)

First developed as Multi-Tool Word by Charles Simonyi, developer of the first GUI word processor (Bravo), in 1981, Microsoft's word processor would soon be renamed Microsoft Word after its release for both Xenix and MS-DOS. For a time, the Mac port, Word for Mac, was the height of popularity. But the word processor really came into its own with Word for Windows (codenamed Opus for the existential penguin from Berkeley Breathed's comic strip Bloom County), released in 1989. It became the market leader for IBM PC-compatible computers following the release of Windows 3.0 in 1990.

Thunder Visual Basic 1.0
Thunder (Visual Basic 1.0)

Visual Basic 1.0 went under the codename Project Thunder until its release for Windows at the Comdex/Windows World trade show in 1991. A version for DOS would follow in 1992. Visual Basic combined the Ruby drag-and-drop interface generator (no relation to the Ruby programming language) designed by Alan Cooper and his company Tripod with the Embedded BASIC engine that Microsoft had designed for an abandoned database system codenamed Omega.

Daytona Windows NT 3.5
Daytona (Windows NT 3.5)

Codenamed Daytona (for Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla.) because the goal was to increase the speed of the operating system, Windows NT 3.5 was released in 1994. It was the second release of the Windows NT operating system and the first version to adopt the names Windows NT Workstation and Windows NT Server for its editions. The 3.5 release included integrated Winsock and TCP/IP support, updating the incomplete implementation of TCP/IP in Windows NT 3.1.

Chicago Windows 95
Chicago (Windows 95)

The release that carried Microsoft to the top and made it the king of the operating system hill, Windows 95 (codenamed Chicago) was released in August 1995. It integrated the MS-DOS and Windows products, upgraded the GUI and supported a 32-bit architecture. A number of "classic" Windows features were introduced with this release, including the Start button and the Windows Explorer file manager. Windows 95 was the first consumer-focused version of Windows that was actually its own operating system rather than a shell riding on top of DOS.

O'Hare Internet Explorer 1
O'Hare (Internet Explorer 1)

Along with Windows 95, 1995 also saw the release of another product that would play a pivotal role in Microsoft's history: Internet Explorer 1. Codenamed O'Hare for the airport that Microsoft said would provide "a point of departure to distant places from Chicago," the browser would first be shipped in Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95. In time, Microsoft's decision to bundle the browser for free with its operating system would kick off the Browser Wars, leading to the ouster of Netscape Navigator as the world's preeminent Web browser.

Janus Windows 2000 64-bit
Janus (Windows 2000 64-bit)

Codenamed Janus (for the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and transitions), Windows 2000 64-bit was the first 64-bit Windows operating system, released in 2001 to coincide with the release of Merced, Intel's first Itanium processor. Available with both Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows 2000 DataCenter Server, Janus added new failover and load balancing features to make the operating system more attractive for Big Iron customers, as well as upgrades to Active Directory.

Whistler Windows XP
Whistler (Windows XP)

Codenamed for the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia, Windows XP was released in 2001. It marked the first time Microsoft offered a consumer-oriented operating system built on the Windows NT kernel. While its NT foundation provided enhanced stability and efficiency over previous consumer-oriented versions of Windows, Microsoft also sought to make the OS more visually appealing with a completely redesigned task-based GUI. Windows XP was also the first Windows OS to include product activation in an effort to combat piracy.

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Tahoe SharePoint Portal Server 2001
Tahoe (SharePoint Portal Server 2001)

Targeting top-down portals, search and document management, Tahoe was built on shared technology with Exchange and the "Digital Dashboard." Microsoft merged it with another project, known simply as "Office Server" (which targeted bottom-up collaboration), to create SharePoint Portal Server 2001. It has grown up to become a leading solution in enterprise search, portals and content management. Named after Lake Tahoe, Nevada, the codename was a continuation of Microsoft's fondness for naming projects after ski resorts.

Rainier Visual Studio .NET
Rainier (Visual Studio .NET)

Named after Washington's Mount Rainier, Visual Studio .NET was released in early 2002 and was the first version of the environment to require an NT-based Windows platform. It introduced a managed code development environment using the .NET Framework. Additionally, rather than compile programs in machine language, VS .NET compiled to Common Intermediate Language (CIL), which could in turn be compiled while being executed to the appropriate machine language for the platform it was executed upon. This made code portable across several platforms, including Linux and Mac OS X.

Yukon SQL Server 2005
Yukon (SQL Server 2005)

Named for Canada's Yukon Territory (a favored destination of gold miners), SQL Server 2005 was released in October of that year and added native support for managing XML data. This version of the relational database management system also introduced Common Language Runtime (CLR) integration to allow it to integrate with the .NET Framework. It was also the first version to allow a database server to be exposed over Web services.

Longhorn Windows Vista
Longhorn (Windows Vista)

This long-awaited and much maligned version of the Windows OS was released to manufacturing in late 2006 and to retail in early 2007. Named after the Longhorn Saloon at the base of Whistler Mountain (which loaned its name to Windows XP), PCWorld rated it the biggest tech disappointment of 2007. InfoWorld rated it second among tech's all-time 25 flops. Vista introduced the Aero style and aimed to improve security and networking capabilities. Sticking points for critics included high system requirements, restrictive licensing terms, intrusive digital rights management features and incompatibility with some hardware and software that predated Vista.

Viridian Hyper-V
Viridian (Hyper-V)

Microsoft's hypervisor-based virtualization system was released in 2008. It took its codename from a green pigment derived from Chromium oxide dehydrate and often described as extremely stable and powerful. Perhaps more important, it lacks the toxicity of other green pigments. Hyper-V is a Type-1 hypervisor that runs directly on the host's hardware. Microsoft plans to update the hypervisor with Windows Server 8.

Vienna Windows 7
Vienna (Windows 7)

Windows Vista may have been a flop, but Microsoft turned things around in 2009 with Windows 7, the current release of the operating system. It is the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft history. It took its codename from the Austrian city of Vienna, which in 2007 and 2008 was ranked first globally for its culture of innovation in the Innovation Cities Index. It focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows shell and taskbar and performance improvements.

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Denali SQL Server 2012
Denali (SQL Server 2012)

Named for Denali, the original Koyukon Athabaskan name for Alaska's Mount McKinley, the most recent version of SQL Server was released to manufacturing in March 2012 with general availability following in April. Microsoft positioned the database platform for mission-critical environments, focusing on scalability, availability and recoverability. Of particular note is AlwaysOn, a new way of performing SQL Server failovers using Database Availability Groups.

Milan Surface
Milan (Surface)

When it comes to its new Surface tablet, expected to be released later this year along with the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft's codename makes its intentions (and ambitions) clear: Milan has long been recognized as a global center for fashion and design. The new tablet will go head- to-head with Apple's iPad, the world's most popular tablet due in no small part to its product design. Microsoft is hoping to make some design waves of its own with a 10.6 inch HD screen, as well as a physical keyboard built into the cover and a kickstand to prop up the screen.

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