Why am I Constantly Asked to Explain Microsoft's Brand?

Why am I Constantly Asked to Explain Microsoft's Brand?

RELATED WINDOWS 8 DEVELOPMENT ARTICLES: "How to Build Windows 8 Applications" and "How to Work with Local Notifications in Windows 8-Style Apps

Grandma Huckaby knows what an iPad is. She knows it's expensive. And she's heard on the news that Apple announced a little iPad a few weeks back, and that's expensive, too. She also knows what MacBooks, iMacs, and MacBook Airs are.

In the science of marketing there's something that's called brand identity. This concept is different than brand awareness or any other component of brand marketing. It's difficult for any company to achieve greatness in brand identity. Clearly Apple has achieved remarkable success in its brand identity. It's also very difficult and usually very damaging to an organization if they manage to screw up brand identity. You either score high on brand identity or you don't. 

Explanation of Surface, WinRT, and Windows 8

I have worked with Microsoft for over 25 years. So that's why it's with great pain that I write the following diatribe. Rhetorically I have to ask, "Why am I constantly asked to explain Microsoft's brand?" It's a bit frustrating that I have explain the company's brand not only to customers, but also to Grandma Huckaby and everyone else. In the following I'm going to clear up any questions you might have with an explanation of the brands that are behind Microsoft:

  • The device formerly known as the Surface is now known as the PixelSense device. The device formerly known as the Surface table is now known as the Samsung SUR40.
  • The term Surface is now used to describe a type of hardware such as a small notebook computer with an easily detachable keyboard, not the OS that it runs on. The first version of the Surface, Surface RT, was released in October 2012. It runs Windows 8, but it doesn't run traditional Windows apps even though it's a Windows device. It has an ARM based processor. For more information on Microsoft's Surface device, see "Microsoft Is Betting the Farm on the Surface Tablet" and "Microsoft's Surface RT is Shaping Up to be a Train Wreck."
  • The term Windows Runtime (WinRT) refers to the runtime that's used to execute the modern UI applications or Windows Store applications on several different platforms. Although we referred to these as Metro applications for years starting with Windows Phone 7, we can't call them Metro applications anymore because another company copyrighted that term. Now they are referred to as modern UI or Windows Store applications. Also, Windows Store applications don't have to be deployed from only the Windows Store.
  • The Windows 8 OS also runs on the traditional Wintel hardware as opposed to an ARM processor. The Windows 8 OS also provides a great bridge from Windows 7 to Windows 8 because the new OS runs everything that ran on Windows 7, including all of the new WinRT applications. Windows 8 also includes enhancements to some foundational components such as Active Directory.
  • Windows RT runs only on WinRT, which means that it can only run modern UI applications. It's a more compact and efficient version of the OS that targets low-power ARM processors.
  • Surface RT runs Windows RT, which only runs WinRT and modern UI applications.
  • In February 2013, Microsoft will ship the Surface with Windows 8 Pro device, and it will run Windows 8. It can run modern UI applications, and it can also run traditional Win32 applications such as Outlook, Excel and Word.

Microsoft's Development Technology Strategy

There's also some confusion surrounding Microsoft's development technology strategy. In the following, I'll clearly outline the difference between WinRT in terms of development:

  • WinRT is a runtime. It's not a framework. For example, the .NET Framework is agnostic to the OS it runs on. This is why the .NET Framework can run on several OSs, and it can even run versions successfully side-by-side on Windows OSs. A runtime is tied to the OS. Although it hasn't been announced, the new WinRT version should only run on Windows 8. When the next Windows OS comes out developers will have to do something different.
  • WinRT supports three programming models: HTML5, C++, and XAML/C#. The XAML/C# implementation shouldn't be critiqued on the basis that it's a 1.0 version, but it's really light; basically equivalent to Silverlight 2.0 functionality.
  • Although it's not publicly announced, the most popular developer technology in Microsoft history, Silverlight, has ended its life cycle with Silverlight 5.0. Silverlight, like all the versions of .NET framework, will run in the desktop mode of Windows 8. The desktop mode of Windows 8 only works on Wintel machines and doesn't include ARM models. Desktop mode in Windows 8 is essentially Windows 7 without the Start button.

Brand Identify for Microsoft's Mobile Device Strategy

Let's talk about Windows Phone 8. This device recently shipped and will run all the apps designed for Windows Phone 7. This means that it runs Silverlight, and you can build Silverlight apps for it, which seemingly ended its life cycle recently. But you can also build apps for Windows Phone 8 with WinRT.

There we have it. You are now clear on the state of Microsoft's brand identity for its wide-range of products, along with the company's developer technology strategy.

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