The slow erosion of Microsoft’s brand continues. New York Times columnist Randall Stross has a wonderful essay this morning on how the salons in Redmond are using Microsoft 8 as an excuse to phase out the eye-rolling “Live” appendage to its desktop software:
After so many years of pushing the Windows Live brand in so many products, the company couldn’t easily drop the branding, even if executives had come around to the idea that it was misbegotten. But the imminent arrival of a new version of its flagship PC operating system, Windows 8, seems to provide cover for the change.
While schadenfreude at Microsoft’s expense is a frequent occurrence these days, the import of this is larger than a misbegotten marketing strategy. Stross covers one key point and passes over another. First, as Stross rightly notes, the emphasis on “Live” was Microsoft’s attempt to capitalize on real-time integration of software programs and users across the web. This worked fine for Xbox where the addition of real-time gaming actually lent itself to the “Live” moniker. But as PC users gravitated toward the web, particularly on mobile phones when 3G became ubiquitous, something else happened: The central focus on the PC and all its attendant software began to fragment. Microsoft couldn’t respond as Apple and Google effectively grabbed the smartphone OS market.
The second point, which derives from this, is that the web (especially the mobile web) put the public’s focus on third-party software developers. This is another big Microsoft weak point since the company has spent nearly 20 years expanding its bundled software in an effort to stamp out third-party competition. This strategy worked fine when dial-up ruled but as mobile broadband expanded, this was doomed.
Memo to former AG Reno: You could’ve saved a lot of time and trouble. The marketplace worked.