By Jared Newman | Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Microsoft laid out some lofty goals at its Worldwide Partner Conference this week. As Nilay Patel reports, Microsoft envisions a future in which all of its devices — phones, tablets, PCs and even the Xbox — draw from the same software ecosystem.
Sounds interesting. But being weirdly obsessed with tech nomenclature, I’m fixated on a side note in Patel’s report: Microsoft has considered throwing out the Windows name once all this unification is complete. It’s a longshot, and probably won’t happen as long as Steve Ballmer is in charge — he loves the name — but the option is at least on the table. I think that’s a mistake.
I’m not going to make a typical argument about brand recognition, because you could easily counter with an argument about the staleness of a brand that’s a quarter-century old. Instead, I think the Windows name makes sense because it can describe the future that Microsoft envisions.
The Windows of the last 25 years is presumably named for application panes that can be maximized, minimized or dragged around the screen. Every modern desktop OS frames applications this way.
But with the rise of smartphones and tablets, the need for windows is diminished. On these mobile devices, the almighty app reigns, taking over the screen and transforming the hardware into a book, movie player, Web browser and so on. When considering a new phone or tablet, its quality and quantity of available apps are primary considerations.
The Windows name can signify the way we consume the same apps across all these devices. If Microsoft can realize its vision, smartphones, tablets and PCs will all provide a window into your personal ecosystem. It won’t matter which screen you’re using to look inside, because your apps will always be there. That’s a more important notion than the ability to drag an app around a screen — at least as far as windows go.