Drop the 'Windows' name for tablets and smartphones, says analyst

Windows brand is associated with old, legacy PCs, he says

Microsoft needs to drop the Windows name from its new consumer products, such as Windows RT tablets and smartphones, an industry analyst said.

A different name would help new Windows tablets compete against the iPad and Android tablets, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research, in an interview. It would also help buyers move beyond problems they might associate with older Windows products.

"I think Microsoft should drop Windows from all its consumer platforms and use something that's a little more modern," Kerravala said. "No consumer today has any kind of desire to run 'Windows.' "

Kerravala said he realizes that re-branding is an enormous undertaking for a major company and involves picking names that aren't already trademarked and that will appeal to buyers. Still it could happen, and it should, he said.

"Never say never," he said, adding "Microsoft used Xbox and not Windows" for its popular gaming platform.

While a different name might sound superficial for essentially the same product, Kerravala said U.S. and Asian buyers especially seem to respond to such changes. "In the U.S. and Asia, strong brands equal high consumer appeal, and Microsoft and Nokia haven't had consumer appeal in over a decade."

"I think Windows has an association with old, legacy devices like PCs," he said. "Most people have had tremendous problems keeping Windows stable, so frustration is already high. Remember, much of consumer demand is driven by what's cool, and Apple is seen as cool, while Windows isn't. Even Google isn't all that cool; hence the Android naming."

Kerravala said Google wanted to attract consumers to its smartphones and tablets, especially among buyers who don't like Apple's dominance. "What's cooler and edgier than Android?" he asked.

Microsoft might want to consider a name that conjures something that can kill an Android or iPad tablet or a smartphone that rivals Windows Phone. "Maybe Blade Runner?" he joked. "Worm? Worms eat apples."

Kerravala previously said that Windows RT tablets will face an uphill battle against iPads, and need to be substantially better to do well.

He's not optimistic that will happen, however. " Microsoft took years to understand that when they are mobile, users don't want a start button," he added. With Windows Mobile, which was prior to Windows Phone, Microsoft to replicate a desktop OS on a mobile device, but Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 are the first OSes that's are truly touch optimized, he said.

With that big change to touch, perhaps a name change is in order, Kerravala said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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