After “Microsoft” Azure, should Windows Phone be renamed?

By Kip Kniskern | In Opinion | Posted March 25, 2014 16 comments

Yesterday Microsoft announced that it was renaming “Windows Azure” to “Microsoft Azure”, the latest in a series of moves to consolidate Microsoft’s branding and clean up the Windows brand. Followers of this blog know that Azure is only the latest in a long string of rebrandings, from back when Live Search became Bing, the birth and death of Windows Live, moving to “Microsoft account” from Windows Live ID (which started out, incidentally, as Passport), and finally renaming Windows Live Hotmail to, the forced change from SkyDrive to OneDrive, and Office Web Apps to Office Online.

Microsoft, as we’ve seen, has long had a penchant for thinking it can change its fortunes with a new brand (although switching out “Windows” for “Microsoft” in the case of Azure seems more like housekeeping and less like abandonment of a failing brand). For the most part, while these renamed services haven’t been a magical elixir, they’ve had a positive effect.

The elephant left in the room, of course, is Windows Phone. Sometime in the next few weeks Microsoft will acquire “substantially all” of Nokia’s devices and services businesses, including Nokia’s Lumia and Asha brands, and even Nokia “X”, its Android bastard child. At the announcement of the acquisition, then CEO Steve Ballmer noted Microsoft’s, and Windows Phones’, naming challenges:

“We can probably do better for a consumer name than the “Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 1020,” and yet, because of where both companies are, and the independent nature of the businesses, we haven’t been able to shorten that name.”

Microsoft will acquire rights to the Lumia and Asha brands along with the phones businesses (although obviously not the Nokia name), but expanding the Lumia brand to encompass all Windows Phones may not sit well with other manufacturers, an “HTC Lumia” probably wouldn’t fly with HTC. But would it make sense with the acquisition, and given the move away from “Windows” as an all-encompassing brand, to take advantage of the situation and rebrand Windows Phone?

Microsoft certainly couldn’t hurt their brand image much at this point, it’s not like Windows Phones are flying off the shelves. The benefits of a rebrand just might help to put a new spin on Microsoft’s full on entry into the devices end of its devices and services mantra. Given the inevitable big marketing push that will come this holiday season for a new generation of Microsoft built phones a fresh new start.

When it launched the Surface line of tablet computers, Microsoft promised a “family” of Surface devices, and that’s one potential new name, does a “Surface phone” make sense? If not, would you rename Windows Phone? Would it help? And what would you call the next generation of Microsoft powered phones?

Posted March 25th, 2014 at 7:46 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Azure, Windows Phone, rebrand
  • Fusi0nz117

    I would not rename Windows Phone because it still runs on a Windows OS, unless Microsoft were to change the OS but of course they wouldn’t. Now the next generation of Windows Phone for what I would call it would be Windows Phone 9, then 10, and after 10 you guys can choose a different name. But for now, keep it this way. I love my Windows Phone just the way it is.

  • Marcio Correa

    I’m not sure I agree with the Windows Phone rename. Having changed from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone has allowed them to reset the programing. Would it benefit from a code name? Probably, but truth is that every time they change the name of their products they lose part of the power that drives them. OneDrive is new enough that I still refer to it as SkyDrive. The problem with that is that when referring to the product I’m confusing a new person who might not be familiar with the product.
    Sure if I’m talking with geeks alike we all know SkyDrive, OneDrive is all the same. But us geeks know which product we want to use regardless of all the rebrandings. If you’re a dropbox guy and we’re just discussing pros and cons it’s all good. If it’s a conversation about products people should use, if I tell them OneDrive and when they ask their friends only know of it as SkyDrive they have lost the powerful impact of branding and will possibly drift away.
    Us techies love trying new things, the common folk, not so much. They want something simple that works. Trying things out tends to not be a norm and this is where companies make their money. IPhones are no better than Androids or Windows Phones but they have a rep and if Apple changed the name to something else the time and effort spent raving about the iPhone would lose some power until the net was once again flooded with the new term.

  • cybersaurusrex

    I doubt they’ll drop the Windows brand, but… since they’re not allowed to use “Metro” for the UI… why not rebrand their touch-based UI to “Surface UI”… since all of their OSes will soon be using the same OS anyway.

    • lubba

      “surface and surface pro OS”. Phones: MS Lumia mini, Lumia, and Lumia pro”.

    • vmxr

      they should not use hardware name on software keep each one with something unique

  • Momfer

    This makes no sense. What if the Stores get unified, or the “Windows 8 apps on WP8.1″ rumor becomes reality? The idea is that you have one OS running on all your devices. Changing the name “Windows Phone” to “Surface” will make everything more confusing. “This app runs on all your Windows devices.. and also on the Surface ones. As in, the phones. The Surface tablets say “Surface” on them but they run Windows, so that’s not a Surface device, even though it says Surface on the back. See? It’s simple.” Nonsense. The OS, be it for phone, tablet, PC or whatever, needs to have one name.

    Also, the “Expanding the Lumia brand”/”HTC Lumia” argument makes no sense. Dell aren’t calling their Windows PC’s “Dell Surface” either. There’s a difference between device names and OS names. Microsoft could easily continue marketing their phones as Lumia, without HTC having to change a thing.

    This article seems to be based on “What if Microsoft rebranded the Windows Phone OS to Lumia” and then ponders the consequences and alternatives, without stopping to wonder if and why that would even happen.

    • 0110110101100100

      Everything written above. It is kind of… obvious.

      “Although switching out “Windows” for “Microsoft” in the case of Azure seems more like housekeeping”.

      Here’s the news. Thank you.
      Making the azure rebrand an excuse to talk about Microsoft failing brands and to spread FUD about windows phone is a stretch.
      I don’t get this kind of articles, just like I did not get the one talking about the Canouna case (you didn’t think Microsoft did anything wrong, still you called’em “hypocrites”).

      Not hating, just my opinion :)

    • GameCube

      I agree with you. I don’t get why the author wrote a long article about something so simple. The writer even quote Ballmer on making Microsoft branding easier for customers and yet he thinks Surface or Lumia would make sense.

  • meddle0ne

    MS marketing is completely jacked up.

  • Greg Edwards

    My initial reaction to this idea was, “Of course!” But nothing’s ever that simple with Microsoft. The more I think about it, I’m not so sure it quite fits.

    I mean, Microsoft seems to be clearly establishing brands around how their technology families are perceived: Azure for cloud, Windows for desktop, Xbox for entertainment, Surface for hardware, Office for productivity, Bing for information and search, etc. I think they’ll eventually get to a point with Windows/RT/Phone where the differences will be deemphasized (unified store, better sync of settings, notifications, etc.), and everything will just be “Windows.” But given the battered reputation of Windows, is that a good thing? I get where they were/are going with it…I have a Windows laptop, and now I have Windows phone, too. But to many people, Windows on a phone is always going to mean Windows Mobile with a tiny stylus ca. 2002, or a phone that you have to install antivirus on and defrag to keep it from crashing. Not exactly the picture you want to paint for your mobile platform.

    So what to do with Windows Phone? On the one hand, Surface is Microsoft’s emerging hardware brand, so I could see using it as a replacement for Lumia (although I really do like the name “Lumia,” it’s probably of the more well-respected brands in Nokia/soon-to-be-Microsoft’s arsenal). So perhaps we’d see a line of Surface phones running Windows, just like you have a Surface tablet running Windows. It’s a slightly different flavor of Windows, but there’s more than enough parity to make the connection.

    But do we even need to call it “Windows?” I mean, we all know that the Windows kernel is under the hood of Microsoft’s phones, tablets, and PCs…but Windows powers Xbox too, and nobody calls that “Windows.” Everything that appears on the gaming console and it’s related services is generally called “Xbox,” including its UI. That is, we don’t tend to think of the hardware separately from the UI running on it. So, if Microsoft does drop the “Windows Phone” moniker, then maybe “Lumia” makes sense as the replacement name for their mobile hardware and also the UI (e.g., you have an iPhone, she has and Android phone, I have a Lumia phone).
    Regardless, one thing’s for sure. Somebody will end up disappointed. That seems to be the only thing Microsoft can do consistently. ;)

    • Momfer

      “But to many people, Windows on a phone is always going to mean Windows Mobile with a tiny stylus ca. 2002, or a phone that you have to install antivirus on and defrag to keep it from crashing.”

      Is it, though? I only know a handful of people who even had a phone or PDA running Windows Mobile, and I seriously doubt the larger public even knows it ever existed. Most people just figure there were just simple dumbphones until the iPhone came out.

  • Johnny4

    NO. Azure is not a Windows OS, Windows Phone is. That’s the main reason of the Azure name change.

  • TheRickshaw

    What an odd bit of negative fluff. Where’s the self-deprecating post about what LiveSide should now be called? The one where you would have something more definite or influential to say.


    Surface phone and why the fuck don’t they make one?

  • Michael Hazell

    I wouldn’t rename Windows Phone to Microsoft Phone, because:
    1) The name doesn’t fit
    2) You are still running (a version of) Windows

    Also, this is terribly OT but Kip did you get my message?

  • rjmlive

    I think Microsoft is locked into “Windows” for it’s operating system(s). There is enormous equity in that name. In 5 years, I suspect there will simply be one OS, not unlike how IOS powers phones and Ipads. It makes sense for a specific OS and it’s functions. It doesn’t make sense for platforms that are not Microsoft OS specific, like the various features of Azure which really have nothing to do with Windows.