Because I certainly don’t. It’s absolutely puzzling. A common piece of criticism about Windows Live is the whole branding scheme.
Here’s why I think Microsoft fails with the whole Windows Live branding:
- The naming – A name matters in branding. "Windows Live" just didn’t cut it. Why? Well if you think about it literally, it doesn’t make sense. Windows Live has little to do with the actual Windows OS, since the web services work in other browsers, and even some Mac software. The software part isn’t even included with the Windows OS. And what exactly is Microsoft referring to with ‘Live’? As in instant and on-the-spot? Or was Windows dead in the first place? Again, there’s no sense. If you made up some crazy name like WinWeb, or WinLive, or even just used MSN, it would make sense or have it’s own appeal. Also, the best internet properties are usually two syllables and no more. Such as : Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, SmugMug, Twitter, etc. Things like Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Personalized Experience aren’t things people will love to say. Keeping it simple and fun to say makes it a better brand. Also the excessive unrelated use of ‘Live’ in other Microsoft products like : Office Live, Xbox Live, Games for Windows – LIVE, and maybe even more. No sense! I really hope Microsoft just picks a better name someday and stick with it.
- The user interface – It’s not consistent. Sometimes, it can take a while to update all properties to a new look, but not more than a year! Windows Live Favorites still has the old look to it. I’ve also noticed that the orb doesn’t always work on every site. Sometimes it takes you to Live.com, which is part of Live Search, not Windows Live. And if you zoom into a page, the icons become really pixilated. Not very pleasant.
- The redundancy – A lot of the services and software in Windows Live, seems to be a second version of an already existing Microsoft product. For instance, Windows Live Mail takes place in the same arena as Windows Mail and Outlook. If they all do the same basic thing, why three separate products? Photo Gallery vs. Photo Gallery. It makes me wonder why Microsoft didn’t include this stuff in the first place with Vista.
- Diluting the brand – Ever heard of Windows Live Barcode, Windows Live Shopping, Windows Live TV, and Windows Live WiFi Hotspot Locator? All examples of how Microsoft overused the Windows Live definition (search, services, and now software) and diluted the brand when it first came out. There’s still some odds and ends that some people would disagree should exist on Windows Live (ex. OneCare).
- MSN a sideshow? – Now that Windows Live exists, the Microsoft Service Network seems to have little reason to exist, since it’s most major services have moved on to Windows Live. People still refer to Windows Live Messenger as MSN ("Can I have your MSN?") and Windows Live Hotmail is simply considered Hotmail. People never ever talk about MSN in general on the blogosphere. It’s like something from the past that still managed to exist. There’s nice stuff on there, but most is rubbish and people care little about it. Instead of taking the good stuff and just dropping it into the whole Windows Live brand, it exists as its own with many users still not able to depict the difference between Windows Live vs. MSN.
All of those are sort of attributes as to why Windows Live isn’t more popular in the USA. There’s already a bunch of other services and brands that do what Windows Live does. Sometimes offering more, looking better, integrating more, and everyone they know actually utilizes it. But with a weak brand, lack of any super special features to get more active users, make the Windows Live brand and services pretty unpopular for the general internet populace. If you don’t include Messenger and Hotmail. But even then, people STILL refer to Windows Live Messenger as MSN (I tried to get people to go WLM, but nope), and Windows Live Hotmail being simply Hotmail. They’re practically the most access part of Windows Live, and even those two aren’t popularly referred to by their Windows Live brand.
So what should Microsoft do? The obvious thing of course:
- Make a new catchy brand name – Simple and can catch-on to the general internet populace. No more than 2 syllables. Product and service names functioning under the brand will have catchy names that go along with the whole scheme, instead of boring and usual corporate naming. (For instance, instead of Windows Live Messenger, a viable option would be Windows Live IM. WLI for short, or just Live IM. Also, the need for a better logo to represent this brand. Instead of the Windows logo stuck on a white orb instead of a blue orb, how about making a variation of the Windows logo, like Microsoft Office’s logo is? I was think of an orb with 4 quarter slices of pie with the similar color of the Windows logo on each slice.
- Consistent user interface – Seeing Windows Live Wave 3 gives me some hope. I want to be able to look at a page, and instantly recognize that this is Microsoft’s online brand. Same thing for the desktop software too. Of course, make the UI look cool and fascinating to use. The little extra graphical effects add a nice touch to the experience. The icons need to be more stylish and not pixilated when zoomed in on.
- Cut off the redundancy – WLPG and Windows Live Mail makes it seem as if Microsoft included inferior versions on Windows Vista. Is it that hard to put all the best features of similar products into one outstanding one? It shouldn’t be.
- Fix MSN up, or just kill it – Either do heavy or extensive work to polish and fix-up the MSN brand, or just kill it and give off the best parts to Windows Live. People are still confused on the two, and it’s not hard to imagine why.