Why Your OS Name Matters

Ben Brooks on why operating system version numbers are important:

It’s difficult [to tell if your device’s version of Android is affected by a security vulnerability] because Google has decided that the non-numeric name is a better way to sell the OS to consumers…no Android user is likely to know what version number they are running, or what version number corresponds with each name.

That’s entirely true, but then he goes on to say:

…on Mac OS X, Apple can say: only affects Macs running 10.7.4 and older. As users we know how to count, thus we know how to tell what we have.

How is OS X any different than Android in this regard? Apple uses the non-numeric name (currently “Mountain Lion”) exclusively in all of its marketing material. In fact, across the entire OS X section of Apple’s website, there is only a single mention of the “10.8” version number: in a footnote referencing a JavaScript performance test. Even Apple’s support site refers to the OS as “OS X Mountain Lion.”

If anything, Android has a slight edge here because there’s a “trick” to the non-numeric names: they go in alphabetical order. If you’re aware of this (which, admittedly, most users are unlikely to be), you can tell that Jelly Bean is newer than Ice Cream Sandwich, for example. Apple’s non-numeric names for OS X don’t really follow a pattern at all, other than that every other version is a “spin-off” of the one preceding it: Leopard (10.5) > Snow Leopard (10.6), Lion (10.7) > Mountain Lion (10.8). But that’s even less obvious.

The clear winner here is iOS, which doesn’t go by a non-numeric name at all – it’s simply called iOS 6, iOS 5, etc.

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