Foley on Microsoft

Mastering the Microsoft Name Game

Mary Jo Foley provides a helpful guide on Microsoft's product name changes, and provides some insight on the company's method to the name madness.

Lately, Microsoft execs in many divisions of the company have attempted to discourage the use of code names -- or at least make them as boring as possible to discourage us code-name hunters.

But never fear, all you folks like me who can't resist a name-tracking challenge. In the past year-plus, Microsoft has changed so many final product names that our sleuthing services are in dire need.

When I talk about name changes, I'm not referring only to "Metro," the Microsoft philosophy/design language/UI technology that the 'Softies have honed since it debuted in Windows Media Center and Zune HD. As of this writing, we still don't know for certain why Microsoft must relinquish the Metro nomenclature, though many suspect it's a trademark dispute. We also still don't know if there will be one or multiple officially sanctioned substitutes for "Metro," as various Microsoft divisions are using different options -- including, but not limited to, "Windows 8," "Windows Store" and "modern" (lowercase "m").

I recently started a list of Microsoft products and technologies that began sporting new names in the past year-plus. At first my list fit on a Post-it note. Now I'm tracking it in a spreadsheet.

What makes doing a list like this extra-tricky is that Microsoft officials are working to position some products and technologies that are simply being renamed as brand-spanking-new. (An example: Microsoft Account, the former Live ID, which was once called Passport.) In other cases, there isn't an exact one-to-one correlation between the current product and its predecessor. (For instance, Hotmail is now Outlook.com.)

Here's my rebranding list so far, with related items grouped together. The list includes the old name and the expected (or suspected) new one, separated by a colon.

Cross-Company
Metro design: modern design
Metro style apps: Windows 8 apps (or maybe Windows Store apps)

Microsoft Business Division
Office 2013: Office Next
Office 2010 Home and Business: Office 365 Home Premium
Office 365 Plan E3: Office 365 ProPlus
Office.com: Office Store
SharePoint Workspace: SkyDrive Pro

Windows Division
Windows on ARM: Windows RT
Windows Live ID/Passport: Microsoft Account
Hotmail: Outlook.com
Windows Live SkyDrive: SkyDrive
Windows Live Mail: Windows Mail Desktop
Windows Live Essentials: Windows Essentials

Server and Tools Business Division
AppFabric Service Bus: Windows Azure Service Bus
SQL Azure: Windows Azure SQL Database
Windows Small Business Server/ Windows Small Business Server Essentials: Windows Server 2012 Essentials
Silverlight: XAML

Online Services Division
Microsoft adCenter: Bing Ads
Microsoft Search Marketplace: Yahoo! Bing Network

A few initial observations: Live is dead. Unless you're talking about Xbox -- in that case, Live is very much alive. The Microsoft touch tables and tablets still need some further rebranding help: Before you buy, make sure you know whether someone's talking about Surface (PCs/tablets), the technology formerly known as Surface (PixelSense) or Office-focused multi-touch displays (Perceptive Pixel).

Also, Microsoft must have paid a pretty penny to grab the "Essentials" brand, given the 'Softies are overusing it in multiple ways that have nothing to do with one another -- Windows Essentials, Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Xbox 360 Essentials.

What other entries should I have on my Microsoft rebranding list?



About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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