Microsoft's branding crisis comes to a head with Windows 8

Microsoft's branding crisis comes to a head with Windows 8

Summary: Two brands to get the chop - Zune and Windows Live.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows
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Microsoft is getting ready to kill off two of its brands with the launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, according to a post by Tom Warren over on The Verge.

According to what Warren has 'heard,' two brands are for the chop:

  • Windows Live
  • Zune

The report claims that this is 'part of a broad effort to simplify and consolidate the company's brands into a simple consumer message alongside Microsoft SkyDrive and Microsoft Hotmail.'

Warren tells us that the updated branding will be as follows:

  • Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID)
  • Mail (Windows Live Mail)
  • Calendar (Windows Live Calendar)
  • People (Windows Live Contacts)
  • Photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)
  • Music (Zune Music Player)
  • Video (Zune Video Player)

I sort of expected the Zune brand to die, especially given that the Zune hardware is now dead and gone. That brand is just a reminder of an idea that withered and died on the vine, and I think it was a nebulous piece of branding at best. But I will be surprised to see Windows Live being rebranded, because take up of the service has been quite successful and it's a brand that people know and seem to trust.

That said, 'Windows Live Mail' or 'Windows Live Photo Gallery' hardly rolls off the tongue, but it's not as bad as branding abominations such as 'Windows Live SkyDrive' and 'Windows Live Hotmail.' When you branding gets this awful, you have a branding crisis on your hands.

This seems to have come to a head with Windows 8, maybe because the Metro UI paradigm doesn't work well with app and service names that are too long. At least this time Microsoft is going for the 'less is more' approach. 'Mail,' 'Calendar' and 'People' are about as simple as it can get.

Maybe Microsoft finally understands the power of simple branding, rather than overloading brand names with keywords and hazy buzzwords.

Compare this to a company like Apple. Here's a company that sticks with the brands it comes out with. iMac, iTunes, iPod, Mac, iPhone and iPad are just a few of the Cupertino giant's brands that have either not been rebranded in over a decade, or have not been rebranded at all.

The only rebranding that Apple has done lately that I can recall is dropping the 'Computers' from its name, changing 'iPhone OS' to 'iOS' and dropping the 'Mac' from 'Mac OS.' The products and services might have changed and evolved over time, but the brands have remained the same. Apple seems to think that there's value to having a consistent, long-term brand that users can come to know and love (or, as with the iTunes software, hate).

We'll have to wait for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to land to confirm just how deep this rebranding goes.

What do you think of the rumored rebranding of the Microsoft services?

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Topics: Microsoft, Windows

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36 comments
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  • Apple do rebrand when it all goes wrong

    .mac > mobile me > iCloud
    dazzlingd
    • You mean...

      Like Zune, Kin, Windows Phone 7?
      Joel-r
      • The examples you gave ...

        ... are 3 different products - not different names for a particular service.
        P. Douglas
      • Actually...

        Two were brought together to make up the third. Maybe you would prefer hotmail, MSN, Windows Live?
        Joel-r
      • Nope

        "Two were brought together to make up the third."

        Not even close. Windows Phone 7 is not "Kin + Zune." Anybody who has used all three products could tell you that.
        brianrmiller
    • And before they settled on iMac or MacBook

      they had Macintosh Quadra, PowerMac, PowerBook, Mac Pro, different names for the same thing over the years.
      John Zern
    • even Apple struggled with branding

      So true...
      Whoever knew what Mobile Me was...
      even Apple struggled with branding
      msft777jf
  • Those old enough would remember the dot rebranding orgy

    Classic times;-) MS has had real issues with branding, stemming from a desire to leverage other markets (can't change their spots).

    Windows and Office have really worked for them, Xbox a somewhat successful brand. They came really close to losing windows!
    Richard Flude
    • Somewhat?

      The Xbox brand is immensely successful.
      travisbrowny
      • Meanwhile...

        Yes, XBOX is successful but it doesn't mean it should be used for everything Microsoft wants to succeed. XBOX is heavily associated to gaming and it would be a mistake to project the branding to music and video.

        Even though the "Microsoft" name is negatively perceived by many (including the youger generation), "Microsoft Music" would by far be better than "XBOX Music".

        I just hope the branding restructuring won't bring its share of usual Microsoft uninspired names aggregation we've been hearing too often in the last years.
        TheCyberKnight
      • True, amongst gamers and younger people

        But it doesn't have the recognition that windows has (ubiquitous), nor say iPod.

        Xbox doesn't even have the best brand recognition in the gaming market.
        Richard Flude
      • Define successful.

        If you look at net expenditures for Xbox and the revenue generated by it over it's lifetime, the product has only very recently began making money (some argue it still hasn't). If you consider the time-value of the money MS has spent, you could make the argument that they'd have been better off not doing Xbox at all and simply putting the piles of cash they spent into CDs or any other low-interest cash equivalent.
        matthew_maurice
      • I had not realized that

        TheCyberKnight
        [i]Even though the "Microsoft" name is negatively perceived by many (including the youger generation[/i]

        I am surprised I did not know that, as nobody I know views it negatively, in fact they have ask over the past year or so if they should upgrade to Microsoft Windows 7 as they've liked what they've seen.
        John Zern
      • You cannot be serious

        Richard Flude
        [i]Xbox doesn't even have the best brand recognition in the gaming market[/i]

        So XBox is outselling PlayStation because people do not know what they are purchasing?

        "Hi I want the 'whatever it it' in the boxover there. the XBox360 thing. You know, the new PS3"

        I have seen you make stretches in the past, but that one was actually one of your worsts ones, yet.
        John Zern
      • Sorry I was wrong;-)

        Windows 7 is no longer windows. Consumers don't relate iMac to Macintosh ( or should that be Mac ).

        Indeed Apple, dropping Computer, has confused everyone. Really bizarre marketing decisions. I don't know what they were thinking.

        Xbox is also outselling Playstation ( since the US market is all that counts ), sorry not to be confused with PS3.

        Update: I hope I didn't confuse anyone with XBox, I meant XBox360.

        Update2: brand value is about number of items sold. Thanks John

        Update3: brand now equals product

        The ignorance of some talkbackers is truly amazing

        Update4: I was sent this link. Clearly EA CEO John Riccitiello isn't up to with the new talkbacker brand standards.

        http://www.computerandvideogames.com/281204/ea-boss-xbox-brand-cant-match-playstation/
        Richard Flude
    • Thugs on parade

      The Munchkins need to realize that if every note that is even mildly critical of Microsoft is down-rated into oblivion, while notes like the first reply are up-rated to "Top Rated" status, then not only will the rating system fail, but it will become obvious to everyone that Microsoft's corporate culture has not changed and the company is still basically a Corporate Thug.

      So stop doing that. Your behavior is becoming waaaaay too obvious.
      Robert Hahn
      • It's all they have

        Previously they used the flag button. It's their form of debate, silence any dissent.
        Richard Flude
      • Oh please

        Ever try criticizing Apple or Google on a tech site?
        brianrmiller
  • Microsoft's branding crisis comes to a head with Windows 8

    Where is the crisis? There is no crisis. Microsoft is simply consolidating and renaming services which makes sense. All business do this to stay relevant. Not much of a story here but you had to twist this somehow.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • True

      There is no branding crisis. Looks more like a journalism crisis to me.
      smulji