IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 31st July 2005

What’s in a name? The question may have poetic antecedents but in the corporate world the answer is strictly economic.

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By  Peter Branton Published  July 31, 2005

The importance of the name game|~||~||~|What’s in a name? The question may have poetic antecedents but in the corporate world the answer is strictly economic. The value of a brand is well established, be it Brand Beckham or Pepsi-Cola. So Microsoft may not be entirely happy about the reaction to its decision to give the next-generation of its Windows operating system, formerly code-named Longhorn, the title of Vista. Within hours, one wag had declared online that the the new name was an acronym for viruses, infections, spyware, trojans and adware. Ask a Microsoft executive to comment on this and they will tell you through gritted teeth that the next-generation OS — whatever it’s called — will be the most secure version of Windows ever and so on. The official line for the name Vista would seem to be linked with the concept of panoramic view: Microsoft’s tagline for it is “Clear, Confident, Connected: Bringing clarity to your world”. Windows itself of course, is one of the great marketing names. The product was originally going to be called Interface Manager, until an eager marketing whiz convinced Bill Gates that Windows was a better name and the product — and the name — caught the public’s imagination. The name Longhorn has had plenty of time to become well-established in the public mindset — it’s been around as a codename longer than Microsoft normally leaves the gap between releases of Windows — but the company felt it wouldn’t play so well in all markets. Getting your name wrong can lead to more than just embarrassment of course, it can also damage your business. One of the most notorious examples of this happened in the UK when the Post Office, the national mail carrier, decided to change its name to Consignia. While the chief executive responsible for the decision was to claim at first that it was intended to convey connotations of “consignment” and “caring for”, he was later to admit that it didn’t “actually mean anything” at all. The rebranding exercise was dropped after barely a year and it was blamed as a contributing factor in massive financial losses for the carrier. While it is hard to quantify the damage done by the unpopular choice in name, a senior executive of the company said it had attracted widespread derision, which had damaged staff morale. So far, despite critical postings on web sites, the jury remains very much out on Windows’ new name. What is clear is that Microsoft isn’t keen on making itself a hostage to fortune by naming the release after a specific year: Windows 2006 as a moniker would have sounded odd if it doesn’t make it out of the doors next year, which is not beyond the realms of probability. Microsoft got itself into enormous problems with Windows 95, an OS it was effectively forced to “rush” out the doors to hit that date. At the time it was facing competition from another operating system, IBM’s OS/2, and IBM executives had begun the year by talking aloud about “Windows 96” and then laughing rather pointedly. Are any of those IBM executives laughing now? This month saw the rather sad news that IBM has decided to pull the plug altogether on OS/2. It has announced that it is withdrawing from sale the last two remaining products in the OS/2 family. The news is hardly surprising, IBM hasn’t produced a new version of OS/2 for nine years after all. However, following on from the company’s decision to sell its PC business to Chinese outfit Lenovo it brings to an end IBM’s (direct) involvement in the PC business it helped to create. The company that it worked with so closely to build that PC business and indeed began work on OS/2 with? It was some firm based in Redmond, Washington. Wonder whatever happened to them? ||**||

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