Where’s Microsoft gone?
Could someone check down the back of the sofa, please? It’s just that Microsoft seems to have disappeared. To be fair, not the whole thing. I’m pretty certain there’s still a large group of buildings in Redmond toting the Microsoft logo, and Reading for that matter, but if you speak to Microsoft execs these days you can be pretty sure their sentences will start with “Windows…” rather than “Microsoft…”
Of course, it’s all about the brand. Somewhere in a high-level board meeting, someone’s decided that the Windows brand is more important than the Microsoft brand, which is after all creaking at the seams now. There was a time when it was cutting edge to be SomethingSoft, but those were the days of the 80s when Rick Astley was an up-and-coming young hipster.
Take a look at the Microsoft ad – sorry, Windows ad – tomorrow night and I can guarantee you won’t see the word Microsoft once. All the email addresses that appear in trendy 50% transparency at the bottom-right of the screen when a new face appears will be [email protected], and the logo will be that familiar blue, green, red and yellow swirl.
Likewise, when I interviewed John Curran about the new ad, he mentioned the word Microsoft just once (“…with all the new innovations that Microsoft is driving out, we want to make sure folks are able to fully enjoy and take advantage of the technology…”), compared to mentioning Windows about 30 times.
This all makes sense, but Microsoft still has issues with its branding. No-one out there on the street is talking about Live as a brand, yet Microsoft’s search offering is to be found at www.live.com. And what sits beside its search box? None other than the Windows logo.
Unfortunately, Microsoft still hasn’t achieved great success when rebranding its other products. Hotmail is still Hotmail, not the Windows Live Hotmail Microsoft would like us to call it. People are still more likely to talk about MSN Messenger than Windows Live Messenger.
Compare that to Google – you don’t need to think twice about what URL to use for its search engine. All its services are preceded with the word “Google”. It’s all very obvious.
Microsoft is making the right moves, but it’s many years before it will match Google’s simplicity when it comes to branding. The only question is whether, in terms of the strength of the Windows brand among consumers, it has that much time.