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Rod Drury wrote an interesting post over on his blog about what he would do if in charge of Microsoft. Have a read of the post – here’s the link:

But as much as I agree with nearly all his points, I wanted to expand on point number 15 about assigning a design dictator. Here’s the comment (or essay) I posted. Thought I’d repost it here as it ties in with some other topics I’m covering. Here’s my thoughts on the ‘Design Dictator’ comment…

Re: Number 15. The comments about the design dictator and rebranding. Whilst I think it’s a great idea, it’s not quite that simple in reality. if you really wanted to rebrand Microsoft here’s what I’d do.


Lets face it – it’s a lame name these days. And the name carries too much baggage – period! No amount of design will erase the memories of the past. It may take a decade or two of turmoil, but new generations coming through will appreciate and accept the new brand. And this is a multigenerational corporation so rebranding needs to be though out as such.

2. CHOOSE THE DESIGN DICTATOR WISELY! Trust them and step back!

Microsoft shouldn’t ’seek’ the designer. This would amount to ‘old thinkers’ choosing who to represent them – not a good idea. A third party should be appointed to find the designer. A hard task, and it could take some time, even years, but if this step is rushed, all could be lost – there would be one shot at this, so for the future of the company it would need to be the right person. Someone prepared to die for the company in order for it to live. Redesigning MS would be a few decades work so that’s a fair chunk of life to commit!

It can’t be a ‘Multiyear Contract Job’ for the designer. Look at Steve Jobs – it has their passion, nothing else – just that job and a pile of love!


Let’s face it – Apple has great design, but also great culture. If Microsoft just rebranded, did a few screens and box shots (a few thousand…) all it would be is a facade. Cool people buy Apple Products. Nerds and geeks buy Microsoft products. Yes it’s a generalization – but 90% of the world’s population would probably agree. See the problem?

You can make cool products and branding for Microsoft but you’ll find it near impossible to shift entrenched Apple users from their stunning gear – this is because they love the gear, culture and Steve (God). So that means Microsoft would need to compete with Apple by not grabbing Apple’s customers, but rather taking their current users and trying to sell them ‘Cool Microsoft Rebranded Stuff’.

Hmmm.. Ever tried to make the nerd at school look good for the nightclub? He’s bright, he’s intelligent, he ‘does the job’ but despite putting him in baggy lowriders and a hoodie, he’s still a nerd. You can make a duck wear a tie, but he’s still a duck.

Or simply put, You can rebrand Microsoft, but you can’t reculture Microsoft users ;-)


To be effective with a rebrand you need to impact the ‘design culture’ of Microsoft. Apple does so well partly because it releases a ‘cool toy’, their fans love it, buy it and most importantly ‘talk about it’ to other people. Great design spreads virally, but ONLY when the customers CARE about the design. Here’s the problem that reinforces my ‘Design Culture’ comments. Ready? Here it comes…

“Apple users CARE” – “Microsoft users USE”.

For example; Rod loves his Apple gear so he blog about it, Twitters about it, Allows people in the street to touch it etc. This is Great marketing for apple – It’s free!.

Microsoft could rebrand but would they have the same viral spread? I’d bet anything that they’d have a lot less viral spread than Apple if the rebrand was good. But if it was bad they’d have a HUGE viral outlash, and worse – it’d be ammo for Apple who, as history tell us like to get the boot into Microsoft at any chance – good on them too! if MS had some balls they’d take a few decent shots at Apple!


These are some initial thoughts on the issue. I’ll sum up though by saying that I believe rebranding Microsoft has to happen at two levels. Firstly, start to change the company culture from within for a few years – shake up the business by taking shots online at Apple, then secondly (and ONLY when the culture starts to shift) CHANGE THE NAME AND BRAND – RELAUNCH THE BUSINESS! Not just the design!

if done right, a relaunch of a company of this size could be the biggest thing to ever happen online! Once and for all it would lay the Microsoft baggage and history to rest.

Question is… Who’s got big enough kahunas to make this happen?

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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software