Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Windows 7, Microsoft 0

The newspapers are filled with the story. The airwaves are saturated with the drama. Everywhere you look, the story of the century is about to drop on us. You know, the story? THE STORY? No, not that little presidential election thing. Not the global recession. I'm talking about the real scoop of the century:

Microsoft's unveiling of Windows 7. Yawn.

Just how deep into denial does one have to be to even begin hinting at a major product launch at a time when everyone's mind is on survival and nobody's future is certain? About as deep as our friends from Redmond, who believe that Windows 7 is akin to the Second Coming, or more appropriately, its Seventh Coming.

What makes this story so interesting is that Microsoft is a brand that's never really been a brand. Sure, it's a very successful company, but as I've written previously, there's no brand there. Even Microsoft fans can't agree on why Microsoft is their brand of choice, unless you corner them in a dark alley, where they'll admit they use the stuff because everyone else does. That's not brand loyalty. That's brand coercion.

More proof that Microsoft is an identity with no concept of brand was revealed as the behemoth introduced its successor to Vista, ignobly christened Windows 7 . What's wrong with that name, you may ask? Plenty, unless you're a company that's grown so large and so imposing as to believe it can function autonomously, totally without regard for the rest of the world's opinion.

In the first place, the nomenclature deviates wildly from its predecessor's, namely, the ill-fated Vista. Microsoft, never one to publicly admit its gaffes, still hasn't copped to the less-than-ecstatic market embrace of Vista. What it has done is decide to name the new product with absolutely no reference to Vista, a passively aggressive nod to the notion that Vista's performance was something less than stellar. When you're really happy with a branded product, you launch line extensions the same way a proud papa names his sons: There's Dad, Dad Junior, Dad the Third, and so forth. Hey, if it can work for the Kings of England, it can work for software.

But the dopiness doesn't stop there. While good product names are always born from good branding strategies, the converse is also true: Horrible names hail from non-existent brand strategies. Such is the case with Windows 7. If you doubt that, try asking anyone -- including Microsoft users -- if they recall Windows 6. Or Windows 5. You're likely to get that puzzled dog expression, because nobody recalls them. But Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, rationalizes the name by gazing deeply into its own navel and pulling out the fact that the system is indeed the seventh incarnation of the Windows platform.

Anyone care? I doubt it. More to the point, does the name carry any significant importance to anyone, about anything, other than the Microsoft honchos?

If you really want to know how Windows 7 got its name, I can venture a pretty good guess: There they were, standing in front of a focus group -- probably many focus groups -- asking the participants questions like, "What kind of feelings do you have about Windows? About Vista?" And then they asked the question they hated themselves for asking:

"Who does a good job of naming their software?"

You can guess whose name came out on top: Apple. With their System 6, System 7, System 8, System 9 -- and in a sensible progression that conveyed the dramatic shift of platforms -- OS X. Once again, Microsoft, arguably one of the world's largest and most successful companies found itself playing catch-up to a competitor who can barely claim a 7% share of market.

Makes you really look forward to Windows 8, doesn't it?


Blogger Snoopyrox said...

psht. Windows. Double yawn. Wait until the 'jockers' come out with their own itouches! Oh well, we'll still be the cool ones...

10:12 PM  

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