"Redmond, We Have a Problem"

Paul Thurrott:

I’ve been writing about Windows for almost 20 years, and I feel like I’ve kind of seen it all. But for the past several days, I’ve been struggling under the weight of the most brutal email onslaught I’ve ever endured over these two decades. And if my email is any indication, and I believe it is, the majority of people out there have absolutely no idea what Windows RT is.

As one of Microsoft's most staunch supporters, it's rather disconcerting to read such resounding negativity regarding a baffling lack of consumer education from Microsoft.

On the precipice of launching a radical interface overhaul of Windows and the associatively forked versioning therein, Microsoft has done little in the way of awareness. The company seems to be effectively peddling the Surface, but, according to Thurrott, few are aware of what ecosystem they're truly buying into.

Beyond the technology community-targeted propaganda regarding "compromise," Microsoft has failed to articulate the actual compromises inherent to Windows RT when compared to x86 Windows 8. The fact is, whether it chooses to admit it or not, Microsoft has created two separate ecosystems within Windows 8.

The two may look and operate in a functionally similar way, but beyond the cosmetic similarities, the two are fundamentally different. Apps are not cross-compatible, Office is in varying levels of readiness and availability, the desktop functions differently, and battery life is woefully disparate.

I don't mean to harp on the misguided "compromise" philosophy Microsoft remains keen to continue pushing, but it has reached a point of utter misrepresentation.

Derived from this misrepresentation is a serious sentiment of confusion in Microsoft's core consumer base. A genuinely broad feeling of questioning and uncertainty.

Therein lies the most serious danger in Microsoft's strategy. In spite of its best innovative efforts, the company has done little in the way of preparing its consumers, not to mention delineating the key differences between its forked OS versions.

Such a failure, unless rectified quickly, could pose disastrous consequences for Windows 8, RT, and the Surface.

Today, as has been highlighted in a piece by Nick Wingfield in the New York Times, the audience currently hovers between uneducated, alienated, and welcoming. Without further effort, I fear Microsoft will fail to reconcile such disparate and troubling feelings before it's too late.

Microsoft Unveils New Logo

Microsoft

Beyond the obvious commitment and adherence to the new Metro/Windows UI standards, the logo strikes me as somewhat ill-fitting for Microsoft as a whole.

Harking upon the traditional Windows logo — and, indeed, the Microsoft Store logo — the company seems to have cast its identity somewhat askew. The central confusion lies in the fact that Windows is but one product of Microsoft. Perhaps it’s one of Microsoft’s most well-known products, but that’s not to say that the product should characterize the entirety of the larger corporate entity.

When Microsoft introduced Metro several years ago, the company received unilateral praise for its courage to do something measurably different. Its confidence stoked by such plaudits, Microsoft embarked upon a path of wedging half-hearted and ill-fitting takes on the Metro UI standard into a great many of its assets. Regardless of the potential good that may come from Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, the design — as I’ve written in the past — is merely presented as another layer atop a quickly aging foundation.

Following this analogy, although the logo has shed its italicized aesthetic for a colorful Metro-centric look, it’s important to remember that Microsoft is still Microsoft. Steve Balmer remains at the helm, innovative elements of the company continue to be quashed, and the company has yet to make good on a great many of its promises for the future. I certainly hope Microsoft does attain all that it has set out to achieve, but any optimism I may hold is not derived from any “newness and freshness” of the logo.

The logo does indeed emphasize a different Microsoft, but the branding is immaterial without effective execution. Therein lies the true test of this logo, this brand, and this company for the years to come.

As an aside, for all of this — particularly the money spent — I simply wish Microsoft would’ve paid more attention to Mr. Andrew Kim earlier this year. That’s the type of branding that’d truly instill confidence and surprise in the technology world, not simply repurposing a composite of other product logos and traditional colors.