As previously discussed, Microsoft is making some big changes with Windows 8, and yesterday, they announced a bit of cleaning up in preparation. The strength of a company’s ecosystem is becoming more and more important. Google launched Drive to begin creating a seamless user experience. Apple launched iCloud less than a year ago for the same purpose. Microsoft has had a bit of a mess on their hands regarding branding, and yesterday’s move looks to fix that.
Currently, Microsoft has a jumble of product names they’ve branded at different points in their history and never changed due to a vague sense of name recognition. While many people may recognize Microsoft Passport and Microsoft Live ID, it’s less likely that they’ll have a strong understanding of what they are or how they relate, even within the overall Microsoft ecosystem. Apple and Google have this right. You have one account, and through that, you can access clearly named services like Mail and Docs. Microsoft’s services are sprawled across different websites. Why log into Xbox Live with your Microsoft Live ID and not your Xbox Live ID? While this isn’t necessarily changing, Microsoft is applying a consistent and clear naming structure. Passport, Live ID, and any broader account for Microsoft in the future is simply known as your Microsoft Account. Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Calendar, and MSN Messenger are being rebranded simply as Mail, Calendar, and Messing. This is only within Windows 8 and Windows Phone however, the products themselves will still live at their slightly convoluted and mixed web addresses.
Even if this isn’t the perfect solution, it speaks to the broader trend of expanding ecosystems. Apple hit on this first, and thus far, most successfully. The more you buy into their ecosystem, the better your experience becomes. In Apple’s case, expanding their ecosystem is helped a lot by products that are strong on their own, whereas something like Google Drive (which can be a bit slow and unnecessarily processor intensive) is trying to push its way into your computer and knock over Dropbox on its way. Regardless of the way they do it, once your content is within one company’s ecosystem, it’s hard to escape. It’s great, in that these companies are working toward the seamless experience we’ve been asking them for. On the other hand, the companies know very well that once we’re locked into their ecosystem, switching might be more work than it’s worth.
In many ways, these platform neutral applications like Dropbox may be consumers’ best option to have a strong control their own data. Dropbox has APIs, but it can never be as tightly integrated as iCloud is with both OS X and iOS. Google wants us to switch our iTunes and Amazon habits over to Google Play. Google’s services are in a way platform neutral too (and Google covers just about everything you could ever want), but Google itself is fighting to become a dominant platform, and they’ve already accomplished this in the mobile space. This makes entering Google’s platform more of a commitment. Even Amazon is trying to broaden their reach with the Kindle Fire (and they’re succeeding in a way that’s hurting stock Android). Dropbox and apps like it likely won’t be expanding massively outside of their current spaces. On the other hand, they can’t make your music show up in your media player of choice across all of your devices.
Companies are rushing to make this happen because it will only be to their benefit if they win you over. Even primarily hardware manufacturers are looking toward persistent ecosystems, though this is arguably not their place. Microsoft’s own ecosystem is fleshing itself out, particularly thanks to the Xbox 360. The 360 has become what Windows Media Center always wanted to be. Even better - it’s already in everyone’s living room. With this, Windows 8 looming, and the ever-present potential for Windows Phone to make a stand, Microsoft’s minor rebranding move proves to be a fairly big deal. It’s the sign of a company getting their ecosystem in order and clarifying inconsistencies for consumers. A persistent experience is impending, we might just have to decide first who we want it to be with.
- certainlengths posted this