Microsoft has often been mocked for their naming convention. The company’s brands have a reputation for being confusing. While the jokes might have merit, Microsoft having multiple SKUs for their software make business sense. As the launch of Windows 8 nears, information of how Microsoft plans to simplify their products and have a better marketing campaign is surfacing.
The Windows Versions
Microsoft’s audience isn’t limited to those who crack the jokes, there’s a wider and more complex market to cater to, add to that different geographic locations and their laws–for Microsoft, it’s a complicated mess that requires a lot of thought.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista had 6 versions main SKUs:
- Home Basic
- Home Premium
- Business (Vista) aka Professional (Windows 7)
If my information is correct, Windows Vista Starter was limited to emerging markets, while the rest were sold in the US. This was slightly changed for Windows 7; Starter was only available as pre-bundled on OEM machines whereas Home Basic was specifically for emerging markets.
According to documents accessed by Stephen Chapman at ZDNet, Microsoft will be simplifying the available Windows 8 SKUs. Chapman links to HP documentation where he only 3 Windows 8 SKUs were listed:
- Windows 8
- Windows 8 Professional
- Windows 8 Enterprise
We know that Windows 8 will have an ARM version but that, like Windows 7 Starter, will be available pre-bundled on OEM tablet devices. Microsoft has no plans to sell Windows 8 ARM (WOA) as an off the shelf product. The three SKUs will be available in 32 and 64 bit versions.
The 3 versions make a lot of sense. Having just 1 version for the consumer and two for the enterprise is a solution Microsoft should’ve tried with Windows 7. For those who remember, there was an uproar on the Internet when Microsoft’s intended to restrict number of apps that can run at the same time on Windows 7 starter, was 3. This was however changed. There was no need of a Windows 7 Starter edition since there was little different compared to Windows 7 Home Basic.
For what it’s worth, it’s an excellent decision to completely remove any possible confusion for the end consumer by having a single SKU. That said, I won’t be surprised to see some variants to meet the legal requirements, like in Europe.
The Windows Live and Zune brand
One of Microsoft’s best and most subtle moves of late has been their slow and steady death of the Zune brand. Windows Phone 7 was called as the next Zune music player, the devices were slowly killed, and then company officials stopped using the name Zune. It was obvious, Zune’s on its way out. The problem however was that Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand as well as the sync client for Windows Phone 7. According to leaked information, Windows Phone 8 won’t require Zune for syncing. Tom Warren writing for The Verge reiterated that the Zune offering will be rolled into Xbox LIVE. According to Tom Warren, with Windows 8, Microsoft will be killing the Windows Live brand. Tom says the following products will take over:
- Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID)
- Mail (Windows Live Mail)
- Calendar (Windows Live Calendar)
- People (Windows Live Contacts)
- Photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)
- Music (Zune Music Player)
- Video (Zune Video Player)
Except the first, the other six are the feature-names for Windows Phone 7. (Consistency, finally!)
CNET ran an exclusive story by Greg Sandoval that Microsoft is discussing a new Spotify-like subscription service with the labels. (As of now, Microsoft has Zune Pass.) Going by the adage that there’s no smoke without fire, Zune Pass is probably on its way out too. This is a good thing.