Longhorn should not be windows

Longhorn should not be windows.

Peter Torr, who works at Microsoft, looks at Apple's and Microsoft's web site and finds Microsoft's wanting. I agree with that. But it's deeper than just a web site. We need a rethink on our product marketing.

Want a heretical thought for one of the last posts I'll make in 2003? Here it is:

The next version of Microsoft's operating system should NOT be called Windows.

Longhorn is different. It has an all new UI. It will bring us into a new world — the service oriented world. Where RSS syndication is just the start. Where BitTorrent-style applications are the norm of the day. You've all seen that Longhorn has a new UI, a file system, a new set of APIs that'll make programmers more productive, and a bunch more.

The time has come for a bold new marketing approach. Not “more of the same old same old.”

Actually, I'm just ripping a playbook out of the Intel playbook of the early 1990s. Remember when they renamed the “i586” to the “Pentium?” That set them apart marketing wise and kept AMD on the defensive ever since. After all, AMD couldn't make a “Pentium” so AMD had to come up with its own brand name (and couldn't keep up with Intel's advertising budget).

Some other reasons to change the name?

Apps designed for Longhorn won't work on XP. So, that creates market confusion. If you rename Longhorn to something else, it'll make it clear that a major change has occured. Obviously the box/CD/Web pages would make it clear that Longhorn “runs Windows XP software.”

Yeah, I know we have a certain competitor who is suing us over the Windows trademark. I have no idea whether we'll win that suit or not. It really shouldn't matter. Which is why I'm writing this before the suit gets settled. If we win we should still change the name of the next OS to something else.

Changing the name of Longhorn will tell the market that “yes, indeed, this is the real deal and it's different and better than Windows XP.” This is important, because I believe that XP has had a slow adoption curve because people didn't see it as any different from Windows 2000.

OK, so, what kind of name would I pick? That is a $64,000 question. Actually, didn't Intel pay millions for the name “Pentium?” Getting a name that accurately reflects the changes in Longhorn, while pleasing all the execs, passing the focus groups, getting past the Trademark lawyers, and, finally, getting a good review from folks here on the weblogs, will be a major project.

But, I think it's worth it. Longhorn is different. It's time to tell the market that.

Now, why shouldn't we change the name? There will be many that will argue that I'm nuts. And it's not just the pistachios I'm eating.

There is a HUGE reason not to change the name. It is, well, brand recognition. Ask someone around the world what “Windows” is, and they'll answer “the computer system from Microsoft.” Or something like that.

For better or worse, that's a powerful brand identity that won't easily be rebuilt. It'll take billions of dollars worth of advertising and other activities to get people to identify the new name as readily as they identify “Windows.”

Yes, I'm telling our execs that we should spend the billions. Longhorn is worth it.

So, what name would I pick? I don't know. Names are hard. If I were good at it, I'd be in a marketing agency somewhere. Think of all the names that you hear every day. Lexus. Corvette. Macintosh. Play Station. Nike. Starbucks.

I don't know what name to go with. But, I do think the name should be something new. What do you think?

[The Scobleizer Weblog]

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