Microsoft Calling – and nominating for worst ever branding of an online service

The great vole of software reached out to me this week with an invitation as well to no doubt a few more of the usual local suspects and most of whom no-doubt rather more usual than me. Reaching out to bloggers they are, luring us with the promise of free drink or two at the gladstone and promises of a few peeks or two under the kimono [komodo -ed?] of what they’ve been busy with in Redmont.

To be honest I don’t spend much of my day thinking of Microsoft’s web technologies and related. Though were I were thinking much about them I would remember thinking this the other day:

About a week ago, rumors surfaced that apple is planning a competitor to google maps, and they’re calling it… “Maps”

Wow what a clear and simple brand name. I know if I was Joe/Jane consumer there would be roughly zero ambiguity in my mind about what that program does. If the icon says “Maps” on it, I pretty much know where to go if I’m looking for maps in my operating system or online service.

To understand why this just kills me, you have to realize a second thing. Microsoft also has recently launched a competitor to Google maps. And what do they call this brilliant service… wait for it… “Windows Live Local”

Windows Live Local. What the hell does that mean? Sounds like some kind of networking application to connect my operating system’s to, like, other things in the immediate vicinity? – rather than a global Web-based mapping service. yowza.

The irony of course is that Microsoft’s service, horrifically disingenuous name notwithstanding, is actually pretty good. You can do very subtle things like ad annotated pushpins to a map (x marks the spot etc.) and mail those to a friend, something I wish you could do (easily) with Google maps. And it’s pretty looking.

But “windows live” branding (not to mention the word local) kills me. The brand itself seems like a desperate attempt to create in the mind of consumers the idea that Windows Itself has something to do with the Internets. Reminds me of the days would Intel would try and suggest it’s newest cpu would make your internet faster. In Microsoft’s case though, this internet=windows philosophy seems to be deeply ingrained in their current strategy. I believe Microsoft is trying to take the Internet out of the browser. This philosophy of course flies in the face of every trend in the software industry of the last several years where one by one every major application has been sucked in to the browser. The core office applications being the last great holdouts (and now challenged by the likes of Google spreadsheets, calendar and writely etc.)

From what I’m hearing so far from those in the know, Visata and Office 12 is all about the Empire strikes back. Rich and creamy thick clients with all the goodness of rss, search and online collaboration but without that flaky browser shell. Interesting. Will this be the revenge of the thick client or Office’s last stand? next year will tell.

In the meantime, pay no attention to the Firefox in the corner

The Internet is now on Windows, And It’s Live! …and, er… Local