Sorry for my long hiatus but I have been busy working on my masters project (which is very nearly finished now) and had stopped myself from blogging. Now though I am ready to start blogging again and just in time for perhaps Microsoft’s most significant season in it’s history, what can be more exciting than a new version of Windows and Windows Phone, new features for the Xbox 360, a more social Bing and the availability of the next version of Office. Oh and let’s not forget about Surface.
Much has been made of this logo since its first appearance; some like it, some find it boring and some think it too similar to the Windows brand. I don’t want to get into a debate about the virtues or issues of this new logo, I personally like it’s simplicity. However, I would like to suggest that the logo whilst being influenced by the old Windows logo is actually more about bringing Microsoft’s 4 main consumer brands together and playing on the Modern UI tiles design.
I would argue that Microsoft’s four biggest consumer brands are Windows (Windows Phone?), Office, Xbox and Bing. Having looked at the rebranding of these brands over the past few months something interesting stands out to me, when they were rebranding their colours were slightly changed. The new colour for Office, for example, is the same as the top left square of Microsoft’s new logo. It isn’t a new suggestion that the colours of Microsoft’s new logo come from the brand it currently has but I thought I’d point it out again. It might be most obvious in the below image of the brands Microsoft now has. I think it shows just how impressive Microsoft’s rebrand has been this year, seemingly nothing has been left as was.
There have been calls for a while now for Microsoft to rebrand itself but I am glad it has taken it this long to happen. It means the products have changed before the branding did, that is the right way for it to have happened. It might mean people approach Microsoft’s new products without as much scepticism as they might otherwise have done… or not.
I imagine that this will be the last post about Microsoft’s rebrand, I can’t really think of what else needs to be Modernised.
What are your thoughts on the new look for Microsoft as a whole and not just it’s new logo?
P.S. I am glad I don’t have to change the site’s logo as Microsoft have now made theirs more inline with this one. However, I do have some plans for a refresh of the MML theme, it wont happen any time soon though.
I thought it would be a good time to look at all the new logos Microsoft has unveiled over the past few months and compare them, there are some interesting differences.
The first logo to look at is the “Microsoft” one, this has appeared on several products now including the Surface and some rumoured peripherals. It appears as this is Microsoft’s new logo for it products but it is not replacing it iconic corp. logo. I guess this is to bring the logo in line with all of the company’s product logo as they are just simple text in the Segoe font.
One thing that can easily be seen from all these logos is that there are no effects to them, no gradients, no shadows, no nothing. They are consistent and work one of two ways; either coloured on a white background of white on a background of the product’s colour. This level of design consistency is not something people normal associate with Microsoft but over the past few years it is certainly something that has become more apparent.
However, the 2D single colour design of some of these logos could be a cause for concern. The SkyDrive logo for example is very bland and could in fact be easily mistaken for a prediction of cloudy weather in a weather app. Equally the new Xbox services are all extremely generic logos and could perhaps be confused with other icons. I think this is has been done on purpose though.
The top row of icons are all for platforms or apps, they are arguably destinations and need to be unique so that people will identify them and want to buy them (if they like the products). These logos need to stand out and I think they do with their jaunty angle, they also sit very well alongside each other.
The bottom row of icons are generic but these aren’t destinations, these are services. Services don’t need to be specific necessarily, they just need to offer a great experience so that users don’t look for alternatives. Therefore if SkyDrive and the Xbox services all appear as the default services on Windows 8 devices and offer everything a user expects then I don’t know if the services need to have a strong logo. In fact by having a generic icon for music, for example, more people might use the service as it doesn’t indicate exclusivity, this can be mirrored in the app names on Windows 8.
There are still new logos to be announced I imagine including a new Hotmail one and maybe a Messenger one. It will be very interesting to see if they follow my way of thinking about the two different types of logos. It remains to be seen too if Skype will get a rebrand or if Microsoft plans to leave that alone.
What do you think about my analysis of the new logos?
Now to me the “WP” on the end of those names would mean “Windows Phone” which would then give “Xbox Live Windows Phone” and “Zune Windows Phone” when unabbreviated. Those are two products that we know nothing about. It could be argued that we it could be in reference to the Xbox Live and Zune functionality currently found on Windows Phone but why would they have references on the new Microsoft homepage? They don’t offer web browsing. No, these names would imply the platforms that could access the site.
This could mean then that Microsoft is working on two variations of Windows Phone that cater to more specific needs than the current mobile OS. Could what we see here be some evidence to my idea that Microsoft is planning an “Xbox Music Surface” for music consumption and maybe additionally an “Xbox Surface” focused on gaming?
Continuing on from the other three posts I have written about Microsoft’s apparent rebrand it looks like there will be new Metro icons for Office 2013 that fit in with the rebrand. These icons come from liveside and feature the same angled logo. However, it is interesting to note that these logos feature the name “Microsoft”, something I thought wasn’t happening in this rebrand. Another thing is that the “X” in the Excel icon is not angled like the “N” in the OneNote icon which make me think these aren’t the final designs for the logos but merely works in progress.
What do you think of these new logos? Personally I really like them and the fact that they fit in with the new branding for all Microsoft products.
Further information on Microsoft’s apparent rebranding:
I was just tipped off (1, 2) on Twitter that Microsoft is planning to make a new “Zune” that will use the Xbox Music brand and run a version of the Windows Phone 8 OS without the phone functionality. My initial reaction was that Microsoft wouldn’t do this, they have tried making music hardware before and whilst being beautiful it didn’t ever go anywhere for the company.
However, I have subsequently thought some more about this idea. Following the announcement of the Surface by Microsoft on Monday there was speculation, by some, that Microsoft would make its own phone hardware too for Windows Phone. Nothing of the sort was announced on Wednesday and the idea was shot down by many Microsoft followers, despite it being quite an attractive prospect.
And yet a rumour has surfaced (pun intended) that Microsoft has been in talks to make its own Windows Phone 8 device. To me, and many others, it doesn’t really make sense for Microsoft to make its own Windows Phone device, after all Nokia is doing an excellent job and really wouldn’t be able to deal with Microsoft also selling hardware. Therefore, this rumour was shot down.
But, what if Microsoft is indeed making a Windows Phone 8 device but it lacks the phone functionality. Microsoft could make some excellent hardware to encourage it partners to knuckle down on the design of their devices but not actually to compete with them in the phone marketplace. It would make sense that the Xbox brand should be used for this as, without being a phone, entertainment consumption becomes the primary purpose of the device. This device wouldn’t need to have a big screen which would be why Windows Phone 8 would be used instead of Windows 8.
I don’t think Microsoft would be working on this, but I thought I’d just throw this idea out there. An Xbox Music Surface could be the answer to this rumour of Microsoft planning its own Windows Phone device to come out in 2013. If they were to release it I imagine E3 would be the prime event and could be a pocket companion device to the new Xbox that is expected to be announced next year.
What do you think about this? Do you want Microsoft to make a Windows Phone device? Would you want it to be a device that cant make calls?
In this article I look briefly at the new Windows Phone logo and how Microsoft plans to advertise its brands and not itself.
On Wednesday Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8 at the Windows Phone Summit and whilst not really showing much of a new brand there is evidence that Windows Phone is being rebranded. This will bring it inline with the new Windows brand and the other brand at Microsoft. As seen on the image below the Start button on the phone is now the same as the new Windows logo.
I don’t think Microsoft ever showed the new branding for Windows Phone 8 so all I have to go on the new Start button icon but I think we can be pretty sure that the branding will be the same. I do wonder though if the brand will hang more around the logo than the name, if Windows 8 proves popular then Microsoft will want the “halo effect” of the logo to get more people to buy Windows Phones too.
It now looks like Windows, Windows Phone, Office and Visual Studio are all being rebranded to offer a unified brand design, this is excellent.
The next piece of information backs up the conclusion I came to in Part 2 in that Microsoft is now planning to market its brands rather than utilise the company’s name. I pointed out that the new logos don’t feature the name “Microsoft” anywhere and this seems to be part of the broad plan for marketing Microsoft in the future.
Mel Carson: How do you start at the beginning of the year and think “how are we going to mesh all these [products] together and market it under that one brand”?
Chris Capossela: Well you know that Microsoft is made up 8 different business group and its a huge variety of audiences. We market to developers how build great apps for our platforms, we market to marketers who spend advertising dollars on our big platforms, we market to consumers who buy Xboxes and Office […] and we market to enterprises who’ll bet their entire company’s infrastructure on Windows Server and SQL Server. So there’s not one big mega plan, we’re not actually marketing Microsoft, we’re marketing these individual solutions to these different constituencies.
This certainly sounds to me like Microsoft wants to market the separate brands without putting “Microsoft” front and centre of the marketing. This should prove to be a good strategy for the consumer market where Microsoft is perhaps not nearly as cool as Apple but there will still be a barrier convincing people that the new Windows is indeed new and that’s its “cool”.
Have you seen anything else that backs up this idea of a unified branding design for Microsoft’s products and that the Microsoft name will be taking a back seat going forwards?
Today Microsoft has announced Windows Phone 8 and whilst not really talking about end user features the company had a lot to talk about which goes a long way to addressing many peoples’ requests for Windows Phone. Windows Phone 8, as rumoured, will be based on the Windows Core, the same as Windows 8, which will mean that developers will have a very easy time creating apps that will run on both Windows and Windows Phone. As part of that developers will now be able to use native code for creating apps on the phone.
By using Windows Core there is a lot of new things that Windows Phone will offer such as device encryption, that will please businesses, and support for MicroSD card, that will please everyone. Microsoft also went on to announce that IE10 will be coming to Windows Phone 8, it’s not surprising but certainly good to hear. There will also be better support for VoIP and video calls that make the call experience just like receiving an actual phone call and it will be open for any developer to access.
The next version of Windows Phone will allow for 3 different screen resolutions, 800×400, 1280×768 and 1280×720 which is great to hear. Additionally NFC chips will also be supported allowing Windows Phone to exchange data with a wide range of materials and devices, including Windows 8 devices. To make the experience of using NFC better Microsoft also announced a new “Wallet” feature for managing deals and credit cards for both on the phone (in app purchases) and NFC payments.
Microsoft also announced that there would be 4 hardware partners bringing Windows Phone 8 devices out this autumn, they are Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC. Nokia were on stage briefly and announced updates to most of their Windows Phone apps will be coming out in the next few weeks and that the Tango update will be released for Lumia 800 and 710 devices next week bringing with it the option for Internet Sharing.
There is a lot of new hardware supported in Windows Phone 8 which leads on to a fairly controversial topic in that current Windows Phone will not be able to update to Windows Phone 8. Instead Microsoft will release an update for Windows Phone 7.X devices that will bring them up to version 7.8 and bring a new UI that can be found on Windows Phone 8.
Both the news of the lack up Windows Phone 8 update for current hardware and the new UI have proved to be controversial with commentators online. I want to spend some time understanding what Microsoft is doing with both of these pieces of news and what actually I am not too bothered by either of them.
The new Start Screen
The main end user announcement yesterday was the unveiling of the new Start Screen that is coming to Windows Phone (both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8). This new interface brings much more customisation to the Start Screen than we currently have by allowing users to choose the size of any Live Tile on their Start Screen. There are threes sizes available, one of which is new to Windows Phone.
Large: This is a rectangle that fits right across the screen, just like Photos and Calendar does currently on Windows Phone
Medium: This is a square that is just like the current square Live Tiles found on Windows Phone
Small: This is a square that is a quarter of the size of the medium Live Tile
In the below images and video you can see what this level of customisation will allow users to do.
On first look the new Start Screen might appear to be really cluttered and not nearly as simple as the current Start Screen. Now that is true but do bear in mind that everything is customisable so it is easy to have the Start Screen in Windows Phone 8 look pretty much how you have your phone now. In fact if you look at the bottom right Start Screen it is almost exactly how a Windows Phone 7 would look.
When I first saw the new Start Screen I wasn’t a fan but after seeing lots of images of it I am looking forward it. There are quite a few Live Tiles that only show me a number of notification, I don’t really need them to be medium sized tiles, it would make more sense to have them as small tiles and arranged in such a way as to resemble some kind of notification bar. I imagine that my Start Screen will look a little something like this.
The new Start Screen looks great to me and I am looking forward to using it on my Lumia 800 when Windows Phone 7.8 comes out.
Windows Phone 8 vs Windows Phone 7.8
There has been a lot of discussion about this online, I have even gone back and forth on the issue. Windows Phone 8 requires the new hardware to be able to work and therefore it can’t run on the current hardware. Microsoft doesn’t want to abandon its current Windows Phone users and so will offer an update, Windows Phone 7.8 that will bring some new features, specifically the new Start Screen UI.
Some people who bought a new Lumia only a few months ago are upset some even angry that their phone wont get Windows Phone 8. It’s understandable to be annoyed that a device wont get an update however the device will get an update! If Windows Phone 8 was available for Windows Phone 7.X hardware then it would be fairly pointless as many of the apps designed for Windows Phone 8 just wouldn’t work. Therefore, an update will be offered that enhances using a Windows Phone 7.X device through new features but one that doesn’t impair the experience (the latest version of iOS running on older iPhones often slows the iPhone down and doesn’t improve the experience).
I think the thing that is concealing the truth and causing this contention is the name. It almost seems to me to be that if Microsoft just said “yes, Windows Phone 8 is coming to all current and future Windows Phones” more people would be happy. However, in reality it would cause a lot of confusion when people actually tried to use their updated phones as so much of the OS just wouldn’t be available for them. They would have a Windows Phone 8 device but without most of the Windows Phone 8 hardware. How confusing would that be?!
Instead Microsoft are keeping it simple in terms of branding, only new phones with the new hardware will be Windows Phone 8 devices. All older Windows Phone will be 7.8. That is a clear distinction and should make things simpler for users.
Additionally, I think we need to bare in mind that Microsoft really hasn’t announced many of the new end user features it has planned for Windows Phone 8. The Windows Phone Summit’s purpose was to outline the plan for the platform and not offer a list of new features. I imagine that most of the new features will make use of new hardware coming with Windows Phone 8 but that actually much of it will still work (perhaps just not as well) on older devices. Therefore, we can expect that the Windows Phone 7.8 update will bring more with it than just the new Start Screen.
I imagine that IE10 and the new voice control system, that allows people to talk to their phone like they can with the Xbox, will both come in the 7.8 update as I see no reason why they couldn’t as they aren’t dependent on new hardware. Maybe they wont be as quick and smooth as they are on Windows Phone 8 but they should still work.
I like the fact that Microsoft is using the Segoe font for everything but I think that without an icon to sit next to the Microsoft text it looks boring and in fact could easily be missed. However, this idea of people not noticing the Microsoft name as much might actually be part of Microsoft’s bigger marketing plan.
If you look at the logos in the previous post you’ll notice something missing from the product names that can be found in the current branding of the same products. The logos are all missing the name “Microsoft”.
There is currently one major product that I can think of that currently doesn’t have the Microsoft name in its brand and that’s the Xbox. That’s Microsoft’s run away consumer success story and I think that Microsoft is looking to emulate that brand detachment to remove any negative connotations that company’s name might have from it’s individual brands.
This can even be seen when booting into the Windows 8 Release Preview as all that stands out when it boots is “Windows”. There is no version number and no company name. Consumers often don’t really care who makes the product they are using or at the very least don’t need to be told who makes it every time they go to use it. Equally once they have purchased the product they probably don’t need to be informed at what version of the product is.
The idea of removing version names and numbers from the product names highlights Microsoft focus on the consumer market where people don’t care nor need to know. It does, however, require that things work seamlessly together. People need to know that they can send an Office document to someone and that they will be able to open it whatever version of the software they might be running. Thankfully I think Microsoft is pretty much there with that kind of compatibility across its products.
But going back to Surface I have read through the official Press Release about Surface and one thing struck me, it is not called the “Microsoft Surface”. Not once. In fact there are only two mentions of “Microsoft Surface” on the page, one is a tag for the post and another is a link to the video of the announcement. It looks to me like when Surface launches it will doing so without the name Microsoft being centre stage.
And yet there is some confusion as on the official Surface page the text reads “Welcome to Microsoft Surface” but the page is titled “Surface by Microsoft”. Although, the Surface logo itself doesn’t feature any reference to Microsoft and on the about page it is only referred to as Surface.
This apparent rebrand looks to be even more dramatic than I had originally thought. It looks like Microsoft as a brand is trying to detach itself from its individual products whilst allowing the products’ brand to all work well together. This actually matches up with Microsoft’s ethos too in that the technology should disappear (Microsoft) and allow the user to seamlessly work across a range of devices (the new branding) as and when they need to.
There were a few other rebranding things noticed in the Surface announcement such as a new logo for the Windows Store and SkyDrive, both of which can be seen in the above image of the Windows 8 Start Screen on Surface.
I shall be paying close attention to this afternoon’s Windows Phone Summit to see if there is anything else to back up my thinking of this rebrand. What are your thoughts on this supposed rebrand?
The current excitement around a recent tech announcement can be traced back to a little music player. This little music player was iterated upon several times and was then used to create the foundations for the design of a new phone. Once this phone was launched the little music player ceased to be of interest and it quickly got neglected. However, the phone went on to receive much praise and awards, even if there were naysayers. The popularity of aspects of the phone started to inspire design elements within a desktop OS and even the company’s TV product. Then to bring everything together the company announced something significant, something not before seen, a tablet computer that made sense and offered a better experience than those that had gone before it.
Now whilst the above story is about Microsoft it could equally be about Apple. The parallels that can be drawn between the story of how both companies have gone about making devices and software only really exist with the story and not the execution nor the products.
Where Apple has had success (music, phones and tablets) Microsoft has struggled and where Microsoft is “winning” (TV and PC) Apple is nowhere near them. Where Microsoft seems to have conceded defeat with music players Apple seem keen to compliment that but claiming that Microsoft “won” the PC war and instead focusing more on the emerging tablet market. However, the two companies continue to battle it out for supremacy with the phone and the TV.
Yesterday though Microsoft did something that surprised many and seems to have excited more, it announced it was going to make its own tablet devices to better combat the likes of the iPad. The devices are to be called Surface and will come in two significantly different forms. One will be an ARM device running Windows RT and the other an Intel based device running Windows 8 Pro.
This announcement is significant because Microsoft has never made its own PC hardware as it has worked with partners (Dell, HP, Aces, etc) to allow them to make the devices whilst it makes the software. This news means Microsoft, for the first time, will be competing with its partners. Microsoft had to do this really to ensure that there was at least 1 great device for Windows RT and 8 come the launch of the OS. So far none of the OEMs’ devices have been up to the mark. The Surface devices will hopefully set the bar for design, specs and price for the new Windows tablets so that the OEMs will have to get competitive to sell their devices. It remains to be seen if this will work out well for the company but it is a tactic Google employed to great effect with its Nexus line of Android phones.
The Surface tablets are stunning to look at and both pack some serious hardware that make them the most powerful tablet devices. Additionally they will bring some innovative features to the tablet market such as their snap on cases that also double up as a keyboard, that is something that feels like Apple should have invented. The devices also have an integrated kickstand, that virtually disappears when not in use, that when combined with the keyboard cover allows the tablets to become like notebook PCs. Users will be able to switch between a tablet and traditional PC seamlessly both physically and in terms of the UI. That is what makes the Surface so good, it bridges the gap between consumption and creation that Windows 8 itself tries to achieve.
Surface and Windows 8 compliment each other beautifully. Microsoft put it well with “touch to type, office to living room” as it sums up what Surface and Windows 8 are both about and implies just how quick it is to switch.
Below is a quote from Oscar Wilde which I think rings true for the Surface just as much as it does in its original context. Surface could be called a piece of art for its design and it is obviously a symbol of what Microsoft hopes for the future.
“All art is at once surface and symbol.” – Oscar Wilde
I would say that both Microsoft’s execution and aims with Surface are very artistic and I am really looking forward to getting to play with the devices.
Now only a few questions remain following this announcement (I at least know what Windows 8/RT device I shall be getting):
When will these comes out?
How much will they cost?
Will they be available globally at a range of locations?
Where is the Surface Phone?
Are you excited for Surface? Does this change your plans if you were planning on getting a tablet? If you plan on getting a Surface which one will it be; Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro?
When Microsoft first announced the new logo for Windows 8 I wasn’t really a fan, it was different, very different, from what everyone is used to for Windows. Yes it was Metro but perhaps the single colour it will always use is boring and the angle that is appears with seems weird, even if it is meant to represent movement. However, after having used Windows 8 for months now I have grown used to the logo and no longer find it weird or out of place.
This idea that Microsoft is finding ways to design all of software using the Metro UI isn’t new, nor has it only just been pointed out. It’s Operating Systems, software and websites have all steadily been moving over to use the Metro UI ever since Windows Phone 7 came out. I think this is great as it will provide a single UI for users to know and understand when trying to use any of Microsoft’s products. Additionally I really like the simplicity of the Metro UI.
However, what is actually more subtle with the invasion of Metro is that Microsoft itself is rebranding around Metro and not just using the UI on it’s software. It might be a subtle distinction but from what I can tell there is a massive rebrand across all of Microsoft’s most significant divisions that will the company a portfolio of brands that all work together and follow the same design principles; the most tangible of this alignment of brands is through their logos.
As seen above the Windows 8 logo has a single, solid colour with no gradients or special effects added to the logo. The logo is also placed at an jaunty angle to the text. These same principles can be seen in the new Visual Studio logo.
Normally in science experiments if you get the same result three times you can be sure that you have the correct answer and here we can see three new logos that all have the same set of rules for the way in which the new logos have all been designed. This makes me think that Microsoft is in the midst of a significant (perhaps its most significant) rebrand of its products.
Each of the new logos by themselves seems weird compared to what went before it, but once I saw that each of these logos all work well together I actually much prefer the logos. They are very modern and distinctive and given a few years should easily be synonymous with Microsoft. In fact, after a few years it should be easy for consumers to identify a new logo as one of Microsoft’s products if it follows the same guidelines. Whilst the design decisions of any single logo might seen arbitrary when they are placed together it becomes apparent that actually there has been company wide thought into this rebrand, that fills me with confidence.
Soon it should be possible to identify a Microsoft product from looking at the Metro UI design of the software and also by just seeing it’s logo. Who would have thought that Microsoft would be able to have a common UI and unified brand little more than a year ago, I wouldn’t have. Whilst Metro might be the most apparent change to Microsoft’s products in the past couple of years it has allowed much more to change along with it, including, most significantly, the perception people have of Microsoft. I’m keen to see the other logos Microsoft could have planned for this rebranding.
This rebrand might have been pointed out before by others but I hadn’t seen it and so thought I’d share it. What other logos do you think we will see, if you create any mock ups of SkyDrive, Hotmail, Windows Phone, Bing etc. logos then please let me know.