Hey Microsoft, Pick One Thing to Copy & Stick With It

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Microsoft is so funny sometimes. The company is constantly running around working hard to show the world who it's afraid of this week (usually, it's Apple).

For instance, I've argued that as good (in a manipulative, deceitful kind of way) as the "Laptop Hunter" ads are, they really put Apple on a pedestal and in the driver's seat, both at the same time. I think that the look(s)-and-feel(s) of both Windows XP and Windows Vista were designed from a catching-up-to-Apple point of view.

Features like MovieMaker have been me-too additions to Windows desperately intended to match iLife features. Zune was an iPod-wannabe. The Zune Marketplace was an App Store gambit.

And on and on. This is all old stuff, but there's one area where I think Microsoft would be best-served by picking one thing (to copy) and sticking to it, and that thing is names.

Looking back to Windows 95, I think Microsoft's marketing and naming process was great. Windows 95 was a great name for the OS, and it was an even better way to make it seem like an entirely new beast from its predecessor, Windows 3.x, and its competitors (Mac OS 7.x at the time). Moving ahead, Windows 98 was, I think, a logical step more or less forward, but the naming scheme was tainted by the fact that Windows 98 itself sucked.

So, Microsoft went to Windows NT (which stood for New Technology), at least on the enterprise side, and even the awful Windows Me (Millennium Edition) still kept its own naming schemes, but that's when things changed, at least to those of us on the outside. In 2000, Apple released Mac OS X, and it seems to have scared Big Redmond to death.

Microsoft's reaction to Mac OS X was to name the next version of its OS Windows XP. It was such a blatant effort to glom on to Apple's sudden cachet, it was hard to see why the mainstream tech press didn't ridicule the company to no end.

Windows Vista was no better -- I believe the company was jealous of the way Apple had been able to use proper names (big cat names in this case) to brand Mac OS X. No longer was it Mac OS X 10.x, it was Panther, Tiger, or Leopard. Microsoft wanted that kind of marketing coolness, and picked...Vista.

And now we get Windows 7, a return to the original scheme of simple version numbers the company abandoned with the release of Windows 95.

Good lord, folks, pick something! Stick to it! Have some pride in what you do! All this casting about making you looking like you have a big meathead running around making all the decisions.

Of course, Windows 7 could be more than just a return to the company's roots and an attempt to distance itself from its Vista-dominated past -- it could be the first in a series of numeralized Windows. First Windows 7, then the exciting Windows 8, followed in 2013 (Quetzl'coatl notwithstanding) by Windows 9...

Look, I don't really care what it's called because it's still going to be a crappy operating system that has to run on crappy hardware from crappy PC makers of all sort, but Microsoft could improve its image...drastically...by picking a convention and sticking to it. It would help make it seem as if the company is no longer spending all its time chasing its competitors, even though all of those competitors are smaller and less profitable.

That kind of confidence would benefit the company and help keep it from losing even more share to Apple.

Comments

jimothy

My problem with Microsoft is how they keep changing their branding. They’re search engines are so popular, they’ve become verbs. “Hmm. I wonder what’s a good place to eat around here. I’ll MSN Search that!” Then, pow, I’ve got to get used to a new name. “No need to give me directions, I’ll just Live your address!” “Let me Live that for you!” I’ve finally got used to Live and now I’ve got to learn to say, “Hey, could you Bing when the Revolutionary War started?”

Oh wait, wait. That’s right. I, and everyone else, have been using Google, not whatever the Microsoft Search Engine of the Month Club is offering.

Bryan Chaffin

Now that’s just funny, Jimothy. smile

Japester

I dislike the year-based naming scheme because it goes out of date quickly and underneath both year-based and name-based names, there’s a standard numerical name, e.g. XP is Windows 5.1.

The numerical name gives an instant indication of where it fits chronologically. I think it’s great that Microsoft has thrown out the nonstandard names and has gone back to the proper convention with Windows 7.

apex

Yeah. It ticks me off that I’m working in Office 2004, Version 11.4.0 (808122). Come on! It’s 2009 Version 6.02.09 already and the newest version is Office 2008? How embarrassing is that? In 6 months I’ll really look like a loser when My office version is 6 years old!

James

@apex
Actually, Office 2004 on the Mac is arguably the better version. Get iWork ‘09 and tell your Windows friends to suck it! wink

I don’t care what it’s called, it’s still the same old Windows. I’m sure it’s great on cash registers, but I just don’t have any use for it.

Dio Gratia

Hopefully a clean install of Windows 7 won’t demonstrate the inclusion of any strings containing “Vista SP3” in the registry or binaries.  Otherwise, it’s counting on the lack of comprehension as in “This way to the egress” used by P.T. Barnum.

Boscher

I think it is funny that Redmond is running scared when it comes to Apple.  They finally have a contender again and they do not like that at all…

Lee Dronick

Will this version of Windows be “System 7 Savvy?” Any of you longtime Mac users remember that question?

http://lowendmac.com/sable/06/0104.html

Lee Dronick

Will this version of Windows be “System 7 Savvy?” Any of you longtime Mac users remember that question?

joelgs23

. . . t’s still going to be a crappy operating system that has to run on crappy hardware from crappy PC makers of all sort. . .

  what world do you live in? I’m a LONG time Mac Geek, hell I miss Wild Eep and Moof . . . who remembers those? But really, I get sick of the blind anti-Windows rhetoric. Windows 7 by all accounts is actually very usable. As for Crappy PC hardware, you get what you pay for, and if you pay comparable prices to the upper end Macs, the PC makers have some ultra nice hardware out there that would make any Mac user envious. If you want to be a real journalist, report facts, not your opinion please!

mahuti

Joelgs23, this is an opinion piece, like other “The Back Page” articles. “The Back Page is the space that Bryan Chaffin carved out for his own thoughts. He suffers from the delusion that there are folks out there who care what he has to say.”

Lee Dronick

Joelgs23, this is an opinion piece, like other ?The Back Page? articles. ?The Back Page is the space that Bryan Chaffin carved out for his own thoughts. He suffers from the delusion that there are folks out there who care what he has to say.?

Speaking of “My Back Pages”

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
Well meet on edges, soon, said I
Proud neath heated brow.
...
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate, I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
...
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
...
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

from Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages

Bryan Chaffin

Joelgs23, this is an opinion piece, like other ?The Back Page? articles. ?The Back Page is the space that Bryan Chaffin carved out for his own thoughts. He suffers from the delusion that there are folks out there who care what he has to say.?

Mahuti, you made my day with that comment. smile

zewazir

I still remember Microsoft’s biggest product naming gaff.  Took them a couple years to get rid of it too.  But it was very enjoyable during that time for to me to walk through Albertsons or Smiths and look at the idle checkout stations proudly proclaiming Microsoft’s Point of Sale software:

“MicroSoft - P.O.S.”

(At least they were honest about it.)

mahuti

I liked WinCE. A product named after your expression during use.

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