Why Not Just Call It "Windows Live Meh"?

Earlier today, Erick wrote about Windows Live Sync becoming Windows Live Mesh. Basically, it’s a service that allows people to sync files between PCs and with the cloud. As a product, it sounds great — as Erick says, there’s definitely a huge need for someone to do this right. But as usual with Microsoft, I have to ask: what on Earth is up with the branding?

Yes Microsoft needed to combine Live Sync and Live Mesh as they were similar products. But doesn’t “Sync” make a lot more sense than “Mesh”? What the hell is a mesh? I had to Google it.

I’m going to assume it’s in reference to “mesh networking” — from Wikipedia:

Mesh networking is a type of networking wherein each node in the network may act as an independent router, regardless of whether it is connected to another network or not.

Okay, fine. But this is a product Microsoft hopes consumers will use. Don’t we think “sync” makes a lot more sense than “mesh”? I simply can’t envision a future where a parent reminds a child to “mesh” something before leaving the house. But I can certainly see a parent reminding a child to “sync” something.

Okay, sure, it’s still fine if they use “sync” as a verb. But if Microsoft really hopes to drive usage among consumers they seriously need to rethink just about all of their branding.

Just recently, we’ve narrowly avoided a new mobile phone platform that was almost called “Windows Phone 7 Series.” To be honest, I’m still not sure if that was supposed to be the name of the OS or the phones themselves. I’m not sure Microsoft was clear on that either. Here’s what David Webster, the chief strategy officer of Microsoft’s central marketing group told TechFlash in April:

“Windows Phone is an OS, it’s not a phone. The idea was that we needed a handle to refer to the devices that ran Windows Phone 7 — the family, in essence. Now, in a lot of the coverage and a lot of the usage cases, that context, I think, got lost. People got to thinking that the software was Windows Phone 7 Series, when really that was just an effort to refer to the devices that would be running Windows Phone 7.”

Um, what? I mean, I get it. Sort of. Maybe.

Thankfully, Microsoft dropped the “Series” nonsense and now the whole thing is just “Windows Phone 7”. And that’s the name of the OS, I think. But it seems like the old moniker, Windows Mobile, was better suited for software. I understand that Microsoft wanted to break away from the swan-diving Windows Mobile platform, but then why keep the numerical reference? Windows Phone 7 follows Windows Mobile 6.

Again, the hope is that consumers will use these things. But Microsoft sure isn’t going to make it easy.

Anyway, let’s go back to Windows Live services for a second. I understand that with the majority of Microsoft business wrapped around Windows, they want to keep that branding intact. But increasingly, these services have nothing to do with actual windows — as in, desktop windows. I suppose it’s fine to tie it to the name of their OS — even though many feel the OS as we know it will begin to decline over the next decade — but wrapping in the whole “Live” element with “Windows” just makes the branding unseemly in a lot of cases.

Just check out this list. There are like 20-something of these various “Windows Live” services. My favorite is Windows Live SkyDrive. It sounds like a synth band from the 80s.

Then there are secondary services for feature phones like “Windows Live Calendar Mobile”, “Windows Live Home Mobile”, and “Windows Live SkyDrive Mobile”. You get the idea. Or do you?

Windows Live itself came about as Microsoft wanted to rebrand from MSN as the age of the Internet was in full swing. But arguably the key component of that, search, has already morphed a couple times away from being “Windows Live Search.” The artist formerly known as MSN Search became Live Search for a bit, before eventually giving way to Bing.

I don’t think it’s a complete coincidence that as soon as Microsoft dropped the whole “Windows Live” aspect of the name for search, the product started to take off. Sure, a lot (and maybe most) of that was marketing spend. But that’s kind of the point — it’s easier to market something called “Bing” rather than “Windows Live Search.” Or worse, just imagine if Microsoft had gone with “Windows Live Bing” — I’m sure it was discussed.

So if Microsoft really wanted to go with the whole “Mesh” branding, maybe it should just be “Mesh” and not “Windows Live Mesh.” Or at least just make it “Windows Mesh” or “Live Mesh” — why do we need all these words?

And why do we need “Live” at all? Live.com, which Microsoft owns, currently points to Hotmail. As the world’s most popular email service, “Hotmail” seems to work as a name. Of course, Microsoft has tried to rebrand it as “Windows Live Hotmail” for no apparent reason. And they also have “Windows Live Mail“, apparently.

I could go on and on and on but my head is spinning trying to make sure I’m getting these names right. There’s Microsoft Office Live and there’s Office Web Apps. Office Web Apps work on SkyDrive, I think — but I don’t know what that means. Microsoft Office Live contains both Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business. Don’t ask me what either does.

All I want to know is if I can hook up Microsoft Office Live with Office Web Apps using Windows Live Mesh, and then port everything to my Windows Phone 7 Series phone using my Windows Live SkyDrive account — or just my Windows Live ID?

In other words, will it sync?