Microsoft Windows. Everyone has an opinion. It is a provocative and paradoxical brand, creating highly-charged negative reactions yet managing to maintaining a loyal following. There have been many successes in the life of Windows; but wow the failures have been epic. Lesser companies would have re-branded. So how has Microsoft kept “Windows” relevant for so long? And what’s next?
Let’s look at the name first. Created in 1975, Microsoft is a mash-up of MICROprocessor SOFTware, which implies it is a technology brand; Windows implies the functionality of the product: you can open and close windows as needed to easily see what you need. A longstanding name can be beneficial in creating brand loyalty, yet historically Microsoft has inspired negative brand associations from customers. Let’s not feel sorry for them though: in May 2015, the Microsoft brand was worth an estimated $69.3 billion coming second to (yep, you guessed it) Apple at $145.3 billion.
Another positive branding strategy is the Windows logo. Microsoft have changed their Windows logo on every release (except 95 – 98) which helps refresh brand imagery. The logo is an abstract window, a literal take on “Windows” and cleverly ensuring the logo and name become synonymous and immediately recognisable. Both the longstanding name coupled with the evolving yet familiar logo provides a sense of security to customers.
Loyalty however may be due to limited choice. Their only competition is Apple – who is not prominent in the business world – although that is slowly changing, and Google who primarily make a mobile platform. This has the added benefit of making forecasting relatively simple for Microsoft as few convert between Windows and Apple, particularly in the business world. Microsoft frequently cites that there are 1.5 billion windows based devices worldwide, that’s a large customer base that will mostly stay with Windows when they upgrade their device. Although as time goes by “the big three” become more and more similar which will impact on customers loyalty.
When we look at the Search, Experience and Credence attributes, Windows is largely an Experience product. This has not always been positive for Microsoft; Vista and Windows 8 created poor customer experiences driving some towards Apple. There are Search qualities, for example HP laptops are cheaper than Apple and customers prejudge on price. Also Windows is a “business” brand personality which has limited their ability to create a ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ brand community anywhere near the likes of Apple or Android (though they’re attempting to alter this with the Surface). Credence qualities pose a problem for Windows, historically people didn’t have the knowledge to evaluate against another product, however, now they do, and this has made Microsoft change the way they design, market and develop Windows.
Microsoft’s development of Windows has evolved in response to consumers increasing becoming informed and exposed to alternatives. Historically Microsoft used a top-down approach, exclusively offering beta products to techies and diehards but the focus now is inclusive to customer input. Perhaps the most interesting move in the history of Windows was offering it as a free download (albeit long after Apple and Google). While a ploy to shift customers onto one platform, the install was done as an upgrade not a clean install; on some machines this significantly reduced performance and risked brand-damage.
Microsoft has created confusion about the future of Windows by stating that they are all “still working on Windows 10“. What is clearly changing is how Microsoft will brand, develop, update and expect us to pay for Windows after Windows 10. Will Windows have version names or numbers in the future? How much will it cost? Will it work on all hardware? What we do know is: Windows will still be here tomorrow and will continue to be a major player and competitor for years to come. For now the wheels of the business machine keep turning.
Daniel Morgan / 214533584 / danielmorgan8