Good vs. Bad Naming at Microsoft

Picture 1I had an interesting conversation at the Bing launch party last night with Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi about Bing the search engine and the brand. Regarding the brand I told him that I thought the name is made more successful by the fact that the underlying search engine is being largely well received. If the engine were weaker the brand would similarly be perceived as weak. So far then Bing the brand appears to be a pretty successful choice.

On the other side under the heading of poor naming choices is Microsoft’s proposed new name for netbooks: “low cost small notebook PCs.” It’s not entirely clear that consumers widely know or use the term “netbook” — it’s more an industry term. Ordinary people probably think: small computer, small laptop.

But beneath this naming discussion is subtext about Microsoft’s future role in this growing segment of the market, and whether consumers perceive these small machines as simply a way into the Internet or whether they want them to perform like larger PCs with lots of (Microsoft) software on the machine as opposed to in “The Cloud.”

Even though Microsoft has embraced The Cloud to a degree it is still very much tied to traditional software (and the corresponding revenues), which may have a greatly diminished role on these small boxes if Google has its way and can migrate more consumer activity into the browser.

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