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

Two brands to get the chop - Zune and Windows Live.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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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