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What’s in a name? Windows Phone 7, XBox Compass, or Other?



The ever-entertaining Chris Pirillo has a proposal for Microsoft: change the name “Windows Phone 7” to “XBox Compass”. Can’t say the new name rolls off the tongue (actually hard to say three times fast), but I certainly appreciate the sentiment.

If you’ve followed my posts about Windows Phone 7 these past months, you know I too am not a fan of the name. Dropping the extraneous “series” from the initial name did much to placate me, but it’s still weak. Chris supports his post with seven enjoyable points. Unfortunately, it ain’t gonna happen.

Not only is Microsoft bound and chained to the Windows brand, but Steve Ballmer has made it fairly clear that he wants to brand everything as a Windows 7 device, regardless of whether it runs true Windows 7. Whether it’s a phone that runs Windows Phone 7, a tablet running Windows Embedded Compact 7, or a PC running Windows 7, the impression I repeatedly get from Ballmer’s public comments is that these are all Windows 7 devices (from a marketing perspective).

Regardless of the technical problems with that branding, I do appreciate the marketing aspect of this approach, but it’s really boring, and as Chris reminds us, Windows isn’t the only brand at Microsoft’s disposal. Worse yet, Microsoft is passing up a prime opportunity to start a new iconic brand.

An iconic brand is one that is easily recognized by the masses, such as Windows. You tell someone you use a Windows PC, they can automatically picture that in their mind without a lengthy explanation. Microsoft, I think, is doing themselves a disservice by trying to shoehorn their phone OS into that brand. Tell someone you use a Windows Phone, they’re likely to envision the desktop OS on a phone and you’ll be pressed not just to explain but also to fight their flawed preconception.

In addition, the brands Windows Phone 7 will compete against are iconic in nature. “BlackBerry”, “iPhone”, and “Droid” are singular names that are tied to their respective device lines. The different models in those lines are differentiated by suffixes, such as BlackBerry Torch, iPhone 4, and Droid X. Arguably, Microsoft can let someone else deal with device branding, as seen with Verizon’s Droid branding for their Android phones. But at this stage in the game, I don’t think Microsoft has time to leave that up to someone else.

I previously argued Microsoft should have stuck with the “Photon” codename, as in “Windows Photon”. This would allow Microsoft to keep the Windows brand, while also giving handset makers a sub-brand to use in product names, like Photon Blue or Photon Z. I’m not saying Photon is necessarily the best name here, but the point is it’s possible to maintain the Windows brand and make a fresh start for their new phone OS. “XBox Compass” works to that effect as well (though not without confusion as some people will relate “compass” to the actual device by that name). Furthermore, linking it to the XBox brand works since it’s already linked to XBox Live. Regardless of the specifics, I’m with Chris on changing that name.



  1. Pinkie

    08/17/2010 at 2:39 pm

    Changing the name of Windows Phone 7 to “Compass” has a major problem.

    The compass on Windows Phone 7 doesn’t work.

    Well, at the least, third party applications cannot access the compass, because Microsoft has not finished (or even started) the API necessary to do it.

    This is despite the fact that a compass is one of the compulsory hardware features that Microsoft mandated.

    I guess you could call it a phoney compass :)

    • GoodThings2Life

      08/17/2010 at 6:41 pm

      On the other hand, calling it Compass suggests that not only has Microsoft found its way with mobile tech, but that the consumer can find their way out of a “sea of application dependency”. :)

  2. Bosun

    08/17/2010 at 5:47 pm

    The main gist here is to inform those old folks at Microsoft to remove the old-fashioned perception attached to the windows brand and take up a new brand if they are serious about playing in the mobile field. Positioning is battle of the mind of the consumer. Windows means static, desktop,old-fashioned, stable…

  3. GoodThings2Life

    08/17/2010 at 6:44 pm

    I like the thought of Compass– Microsoft finding their mobile technology way, and consumers can find their way out of a sea of applications– but Zune is really the name it should be under considering it’s still largely a Media consumption device AND uses the Zune software.

    Zune Compass would make a great name, I think.

  4. saw

    08/18/2010 at 12:05 am

    How about Microsoft xPhone?

  5. ChrisRS

    08/19/2010 at 7:53 pm

    How about just releasing it regardless of the name? It is wahat it is. When it gets into users hands, word of mouth will take over.

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