Thursday, May 24, 2007

triskadecaphobia: a software versioning problem

I noticed that Macrovision released another version of InstallShield yesterday.

When I first started working on the product it was InstallShield X. Over the next two years or so we moved through to InstallShield 12.

Why we released like clockwork every six months for two years running is a story for another day.

So it is with some amusement that I noted the name of this new product is InstallShield 2008. They skipped the number 13!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the meeting where this was decided.

"We've got a marketing problem with the next release of InstallShield."

"What problem is that?"

"I don't want to call the next version 'InstallShield 13'."


"Isn't it obvious?"


"The version number. 13."

"Yes, I see that."

"It's unlucky."

"So what you're telling me is that you don't want to increment the version number to 13 because you think our customers won't buy it because it's an unlucky number."


"Not because you think that version numbers in the teens are a sign of a product naming convention that hasn't been refreshed in years."

"No. I don't like the number 13. And I don't think my customers will either."

"What evidence do you have of this?"

"Other large industries avoid the number 13. For example, hotels skip over the number 13 when they count floors. You'll get on an elevator and the floors will go from 12 to 14."

"I see."

"The public is also aware of bad things happening to projects associated with the number 13, for example, Apollo 13. And there is a well-defined phobia of the number 13."


"Yes, that. There is no corresponding phobia of the number 14. Or the number 2008."

"Is that what you want to name the product?"

"Yes. InstallShield 2008."

"And you think that customers will appreciate this."


"And you think that the alternative would have a negative impact on sales."


"And you don't think that a decrease in new license sales would be attributable to anything else going on in the industry."

"No. It would all be positively correlated to the customer's dislike of a version 13 of the product."

"I see."

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