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 Outlook.com, 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?