Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

On Windows

Feels like it’s 1999 again:

EU regulators investigating Microsoft’s Windows 8

(Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether Microsoft blocks computer makers from installing rival web browsers on its upcoming Windows 8 operating system following complaints from several companies.

It’s easy to draw parallels here: why are the antitrust regulators going after Microsoft when Apple has been doing the same thing on iOS for years? I think it just comes down to the fact that they’re still insisting on calling their new OS “Windows”. In fact, I think all of Microsoft’s recent woes can all be attributed to their bone-headed clinging to the Windows-brand.

Think about it. If they had called their ARM-based tablet OS XBox Touch for instance, instead of Windows RT, noone would’ve batted an eye at their third party browser policy. After all, noone is suing Nintendo or Sony because they can’t install their own software on those game-consoles. That’s why Apple’s been getting away with the same thing: iOS devices are more akin to game consoles than general purpose computers.

But if you call your it Windows RT, people naturally assume it’s full-blown Windows: the OS that you can install anything you want on. For MS to suddenly switch their OS to Apple’s walled-garden model, yet to keep calling it the same generates false expectations. “What do you mean I can’t install [insert 3rd party app here]? It’s freaking Windows!”

The Windows brand is harming Microsoft’s other ventures as well: their Windows phones seem to be about as popular as cancer among normal people, despite getting mostly favourable reviews*. It’s hard to imagine the XBox would’ve been as big a success as it is if they’d called it the Windows Box instead. Windows just isn’t cool.

Over the decades, “Windows” has become synonymous with bugs, crashes and usability problems. Never mind the fact that the more recent releases of their OS are a lot more stable, they still have a reputation that isn’t going to go away any time soon. “Windows always crashes” has become a meme, and not just among the tech-savvy.

I once heard a rumor that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a tattoo of the Windows logo somewhere on his body. That would go a long way towards explaining why Microsoft is so stubbornly holding on to such a poisonous brand. So Mr. Ballmer: here’s my advice: laser that tattoo off and hire this guy to invent a new name for you. Or it just might be too late already.


* Although I do feel most reviewers are cutting Microsoft huge amounts of slack – as a software ecosystem Windows Phone has a lot of catching up to do with both iOS and Android.

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