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[5 comments]

Windows Everywhere, or Nowhere

July 15, 2011

A recent speech given by a Microsoft executive has the blogosphere abuzz with speculation on whether Microsoft will brand Windows on just about everything it does or eliminate the brand altogether.

According to several sites, Andy Lees, president of Microsoft Windows Phone and the executive in question, spoke of a "single ecosystem" at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference. "We won't have an ecosystem for PCs, and an ecosystem for phones; one for tablets. They'll all come together."

Nilay Patel of the This is my next... website reported, "Our sources also tell us that Microsoft is seriously considering ditching the Windows brand name in favor of something new. ... The idea is to re-brand this new super-OS with something that better fits with Redmond's vision of the future. Obviously that could well change over the next few years as this plan takes shape -- Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) in particular has always been quite enamored with the Windows brand -- but dropping the name is apparently at least on the table."

Numerous other sites quickly dismissed talk of Windows-no-more.

"Microsoft is not giving up the brand that built its company. It's not ditching the software that made many Microsofties millionaires (or billionaires) and that has made hundreds of millions of people around the world more productive," wrote Lance Ulanoff for PCMag.com.

Going by Mr. Ballmer's past statements, it seems Microsoft is more likely to follow a "Windows Everywhere" strategy than doing away with the brand. Speaking in Janaury before the Consumer Electronics Show, he said, "Whatever device you use, now or in the future, Windows will be there."

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:MSFT]

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the pros and cons of Microsoft keeping or dumping the Windows brand in its single ecosystem future?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Where do you come down on keeping or dumping the Windows brand in Microsoft's single ecosystem future?

Comments:

Microsoft has plenty of issues and plenty of strong competition (especially in the evolving world of operating systems), but the Windows brand is a critical asset. For many computer users, it defined (and continues to stand for) the personal computing experience. The Windows name can also "travel" across multiple product platforms, as Mr. Ballmer's comments suggest.

Trying to replace something with strong brand recognition is akin to replacing the original Coke formulation...not a good idea. Microsoft would be better served figuring out how to become a bigger player in the worlds of Apple, Google and Facebook.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Uh duh...it IS their brand and Ballmer is right--why give up the brand that made you billions?

Hmmm...maybe Apple could rename itself something catchy like Mango...much more global, don't you think?

What this sounds like is that Microsoft is again trying to play catch up to Apple's marketing. They couldn't very well say, "Wait, wait...we have a cloud too!"

So...I'm sure they are looking for a way to suggest the advantages of a single technology ecosystem without using the word "cloud."

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

It's notable that this pronouncement is coming from the head of the mobile business. This platform, more than PCs and gaming consoles, has the most to gain from ecosystem leverage.

Microsoft won the ecosystem battle on PCs years ago. Now Xbox 360 has been the top selling console for 12 of the last 13 months (though consoles themselves are endangered).

Mobile has been a different story. Despite rebranding, a revamped UI, 20,000 new apps, and a major marketing push, Windows Phone has lost more than half of its market share in the past year (comScore).

If mobile alone is not enough reason for ecosystem leverage, here are others:

*The emerging tablet business (and the lead held by iOS and Android)
*The importance of the "cloud" (and the competition from Amazon, Apple and others)
*The end of Xbox's 10-year and Windows 8's 3-year dev cycles
*The needs of technophiles and technophobes alike to be able to access the same content from any device

This is a must-win. The upside of a single ecosystem has never been large for Microsoft as it is today.

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Dan Frechtling, Vice President, Global Product Management, hibu, PLC

Rebranding a company or a product line is always a tough call. It usually only happens when there is a merger, AOL/Time Warner (we know how that turned out) or there is so much negative press that the only way to keep going is to totally change the name (British Petroleum to BP which stands for Beyond Petroleum). Some have pulled off this move with huge success. Verizon, formerly Bell-Atlantic, did a great job rebranding their company after their merger in 1997 and they have never looked back. Federal-Express shortened their name to FedEx which also turned out very well.

It is a tough call on the Windows brand. Some would argue that there are some negative feelings about the brand and a new name might be warranted. Others will argue that the brand equity is too large globally to make such a large move. Only time will tell.

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John Boccuzzi, Jr., Managing Partner, Boccuzzi, LLC

This would be a critical marketing decision. MS has spent millions on developing the Windows Brand and name and to eliminate it would be a tremendous mistake. This is like "Bob" or "New Coke" all over again. Build on the brand, extend the brand, but do not eliminate a well-recognized name.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

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