Software Versions and Releases
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One of the little quirks in the computer software field
that bothers me is when people start talking about "versions" and "releases" as
if they were interchangeable. They're not, and it just rubs me the wrong way.
They most definitely are not synonymous.
When it comes to software, a "version" refers to an adaptation to suit a
particular computer environment, for example; a single program that works on MS
Windows and another version that works on Linux, another on the MAC OS, etc.
(distinctly separate operating systems). Each operating system has its own
unique nuances that prohibits a program written for one operating system from
operating on another. Perhaps the best way to think of this is from the old
videotape wars, whereby a movie was distributed in "VHS" or "Beta," one did not
work in place of the other.
"Versions" have always been a headache for software vendors. Inevitably, when a
program is first written it is done so for a specific platform, normally one
that dominates the industry. It is then converted to other platforms and
incorporates their peculiarities. This of course means there will always be one
version released ahead of another. To get an idea of how pervasive this problem
is, see the Adobe Reader download web page.
"Versions" would be an obsolete concept had everyone adopted the Java
programming language years ago whereby a single program could be executed on any
operating platform, but this never happened as the software industry tends to
buck any attempt of standardization. Plus it would make the operating system a
triviality, something the people in Redmond simply wouldn't sit still for. Oh
In contrast, a "release" is just that; an issuance of software to their
customers. Although, it could be numbered sequentially as 1, 2, 3, etc., most
software vendors long ago adopted a three positioned numbering convention, such
as "9.02.05". Under this scenario, the first position refers to a major release
of the software, usually with some significant changes to the file layouts; the
second position represents modifications/improvements added to the major
release, and; the third position represents corrections to defects. This
numbering convention served the computer field well for a number of years until,
unfortunately, it was bastardized by vendors who would increment the initial
number as a marketing ploy to indicate they were ahead of their competitors
thereby making it meaningless. Believe me, comparing the numbering conventions
of different vendors is like mixing apples with oranges. It is simply nonsense.
Then along comes our old friend Bill Gates who decides to break with tradition
and release his company's products based on a given year; e.g., Windows 95, 98,
2000, 2003, 2007. MS Office followed suit, as did many other vendors hanging on
Microsoft's coattails. The only problem with associating a year with software
is it has a tendency to put pressure on vendors to produce a new major release
every year, as in the automotive industry. Unlike the automotive manufacturers
though, software vendors tend to miss delivery dates and, as such, it is not
realistic to expect a major new release every year. Bottom-line, the whole
concept of naming releases after specific years is retarded and should be
dropped. Interestingly, it appears Microsoft has done just that as it prepares
to release the next generation of their operating system, "Windows 7."
A software release should denote nothing more than a distinctly separate
issuance of a product, nothing more, nothing less. It should definitely not be
labeled for marketing or competitive purposes. More importantly, stop using the
words "version" and "release" interchangeably. It simply doesn't make sense.
Then again, common sense is not very common when it comes to computing.
One last note, do yourself a favor and never experiment with "beta" release
software (experimental). You can get burned and it is simply not worth it.
Copyright © 2009 Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located
in Palm Harbor, Florida.
He can be contacted at:
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-09-03 12:57:12 in Computer Articles