Microsoft unveils new logo, signals the future by clinging even more tightly to the past

On Microsoft's new logo

Microsoft's new corporate logo has updated their corporate logo for the first time in 25 years and... it looks more like a Windows logo than a Microsoft logo. As a Windows logo, it would be brilliant. Clean, square, solid, and Microsoft's new logotype, Segoe, is really nice. It's so nice, it could easily stand alone without the Windows logo next to it. And they really should have let it.

But alas, that's seemingly not to be. Microsoft and Steve Ballmer have let the Windows brand permeate its way even into the corporate logo. It's almost as though there really nothing to Microsoft's aspirations beyond Windows anymore. And that's disappointing.

It's not like the Windows brand is the only thing Microsoft has to offer. I spoke about this at length already in my piece on the Surface. It's been around since the 90s. It's not fresh or sexy anymore. It's been on beige boxes in cubicles forever, it's been the butt of BSOD jokes for what feels like an eternity, and it's carried now like a cangue around the neck of every next-generation phone and tablet and computer Microsoft intends to sell. (How Xbox managed to escape being called WindowsBox we'll likely never know, but I'm extremely happy it did.)

Conversely, the iPhone by itself now generates more money than all of Microsoft, and yet Apple treats it as a product, not as the company. Apple didn't call the iPhone the MacPhone or OS X Phone. And Apple would never redesign their logo to ditch the fruit and have an iPhone silhouette as their logo.

I've said this before but it bears repeating -- one of the greatest dangers for any company, even one as big as Microsoft, is to mistake their product for their business. Every product goes through cycles, through ups and downs, thought periods of being hot and periods of being decidedly not. Windows was on fire in the mid 90s, again in the early 2000s, but it took a huge hit with Windows Mobile and Windows Vista. If it ever tanks badly, Microsoft needs other things to take its place.

This does the opposite of that.

Windows should be one blade in an ever-increasing arsenal by Microsoft. It should be what was, but not what will only ever be. Just like iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, despite their success, remain beneath the core Apple brand. Microsoft's CEO seems intent on letting Windows subsume the entirety of Microsoft's identity, and that might just be why they've not yet managed to grow beyond it, despite decades of trying.

Ballmer, let the Windows go. Let it be the desktop and server OS, and limit it to that. Let the phone be the Xphone. Let the tablet be the Surface. Let Microsoft be known for more than one great thing. Only that will truly signal a future for Microsoft.

Go vote in WPCentral's poll, then let me know what you think. And yes, we'll be talking about this on Iterate...

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Microsoft unveils new logo, signals the future by clinging even more tightly to the past


Umm, let me think for a sec. Would Apple let go...


Apple's logo is an apple. Microsoft's new logo is a revamped version of the Windows logo.

Windows. Windows. Windows. Windows.

Let's put it this way. Should Apple have changed its logo to an image of an iPod? Back in, say, 2005?

I think not.

I just bitched at someone for personally attacking instead of debating on iMore. I do not agree, though, that pointing out an apparent (or, perhaps, interpreted) bias is a personal attack. Maybe just the "fanboy" label itself is?

If you don't think that Windows ought to be Microsoft's anchor in design, as well as revenue, I'd disagree with you (as I don't think the Apple/iOS comparison is fair) but I don't know that it crosses the line into bias.

The following, however, comes across as biased as heck: "It's not like Windows is even a great brand. It's just a pervasive one. It's a beige box on your desk that your company forces you to use. It's the thing you bought at Best Buy that drives you insane and forces you to keep bugging the neighbor kid to help you restart. It's a relic from the past carried like a cangue around the neck of every next-generation phone and tablet and computer Microsoft intends to sell."

Windows isn't a good brand? Plenty of people have a positive association with Windows and pc's. If you don't and prefer Mac's, that's great, but it's quite a leap to say that the dominant personal computing platform isn't a good brand. Sure, you preempt the criticism by admitting its pervasiveness but there's a reason for that pervasiveness besides momentum. If people were used to Windows but hated it, alternative platforms (not counting iOS which does not approach Windows' volume, regardless of revenue) would be far more dominant.

Beige box, drives you insane, relic, cangue.

There are very few beige boxes around just as there are few "big booty" monitors around. They exist, I'm sure, but c'mon.
Drives you insane? You now what? Sometimes, iOS drives me insane. So do just about all gadgets and devices, at some time. Most of the time, though, I'm getting plenty of usefulness out of it,... like I am, right now.

Relic? It's a long-lived platform that provides benefits that I don't expect from Apple (at least not in the near future). Sadly, Apple is infecting the rest of the industry with its need to control so much of user experience - effectively limiting how much some users can choose to experience.

At least you introduced me to a new word. I'll be sure to look up its definition once I'm done complaining.

Otherwise, I'm disappointed to see this post spring forth out of a company's desire to rework its logo into another version of the same theme it's used for some time, DESPITE the many steps they've taken in recent months to show that they are still relevant and forward-thinking.

I totally agreed with you that Windows is a great brand and Microsoft should use it whenever they want. When Apple was in their bottom around 1996/97, Steve Jobs still saw Apple and Mac had great brand value to the company. Why couldn't Microsoft do that in 2012? I have no problem Microsoft treats Windows as their superior brand but please just don't overkill using it. Don't name every new products as Windows [New Product Name]. They probably thought XBox was just lucky to be successful (forget about profit) without using Windows name. Imagine how awful it would be if Apple did the same thing... Mac Phone 4S, New Mac Pad, Mac Pod Touch...yuck!

There is no comparison, though, between calling a new device the "Microsoft Phone" versus the "Windows Phone." One flows better than the other.

More syllables =/= good thing.


Branding is all about recognition, and the Windows logo has terrific recognition because it is the dominant personal computing platform. I think it's a smart move on Microsoft's part to tie its branding to something most people see every day.

It also could be a sign that Microsoft is positioning the Windows brand to be more than just an operation system.

Comparing this to Apple changing it's logo to an iPod is just stupid. Windows is not a piece of hardware. The apt comparison would be Apple changing it's logo to a Mountain Lion. I doubt anyone would think that would be credible either.

As a final note, every time I've talked to someone having problems with the "thing that they bought at best buy" or the "beige box that their company forces them to use," they have said, "my computer is giving me problems." Nobody says "Windows is giving me problems."

I am wondering what the fourth color square is. Microsoft video shows that the blue square is Windows, red one is Office and green one is XBox. What about the yellow square? Is it Bing? Perhaps Windows Phone 8? It can't be Surface, right? Right?!

It's fine. To abandon the Windows logo and go with something completely new would be incredibly stupid. Love it or hate it Windows has a LOT of brand recognition. And for most it's not nearly as bad as you say. This is an Apple blog, I'm not sure what you not liking the new Microsoft logo has to do with anything. The whole thing comes off as a childish not so well thought out rant.

Re: "Love it or hate it Windows has a LOT of brand recognition."

Agree. And it's pretty much all Microsoft has left (that's profitable.)
Oops, forgot about Office. For Windows. fact, on the year Apple launched the iPad, Microsoft Kinect entered the Guinness Book as the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, outselling iPads and iPhones, and that was just two years ago.

And "pretty much all Microsoft has left" is a user base of 1,25 billion users worldwide, about ten times the number of Mac users, so I don't even think "pretty much" applies there. Its just like saying that the iPhone is pretty much what keeps Apple afloat these days.

+1 I thought i was the only person who knew about the Kinect making Guinness. Pure proof that other products can be VERY successful in the wake of an apple product launch. This is yet another ridiculous article written by it's ridiculous editor. (Sorry man I try to read your stuff objectively but you make that impossible) I also tend to realize people dont think on a global scale when thinking about consumer products. Globally Windows is "pretty much" Microsoft.

+1 Why was this even written? Isn't this an iOS site? What does this have to do with my iPhone? I read the titled then came down here to complain.. Please write something relevant and not something to waste all of our time and get you ad revenue.

That said, I'm also disappointed by the logo, but just because I thought they'd updated it, making it more stylish, but now seem to have made it less flashy.

That is, however, consistent with their new (Metro) design sense. I don't like it on Metro, either, but I get what they're going for by putting the "look" into the background.

Consistency across those devices sounds like a good idea. I guess they decided to extend it to the logo, blah though it may be.

Who said anything about abandoning the Windows brand? I'm talking about making the Windows brand the Microsoft brand.

As a Windows logo, I think it'd be brilliant. (Better than what they've just re-branded Windows to, in fact.)

As a Microsoft logo, it points to a disappointing direction and inability to really strive for the future.

Re: "As a Microsoft logo, it points to a disappointing direction and inability to really strive for the future."

Agree. Microsoft is wistfully looking back to the glory days of Windows 95, NT, and XP. And looking forward in craven terror toward the vast impenetrable future. The Post-PC Apocalypse.

Microsoft will milk as many of their existing Windows customers as possible. For all they can. That's why they put the Windows logo next to their new corporate logotype. To reassure the corporate IT departments of the world that Microsoft is just as hopelessly locked in to supporting legacy Windows technology as they all are.

Windows 7 has 500 million users and Microsoft is the 42nd largest company in the world. They don't have to look back to see its glory days, they just have to look around.

Terribly written view on Windows. It isn't your chosen OS but it is the most widely known software brand in the is that not great? Ask a general consumer without Mac experience where you can get "OS X" and they will have no clue. Ask any Mac user, general or not, about Windows and they can give you details.

Microsoft doesn't need to let go of Windows. Sure they could name things differently but they are putting Windows on a desktop, phone, and tablet. Their business is Windows and every single product that follows runs on Windows. Windows stays.

Whether Apple would do it or not doesn't matter a lick.

I have used Windows every day since Windows 3. I currently have 6 windows boxes in my office. Making me a point of discussion is surrendering any valid argument.

I expected better.

This is a really weird thing to complain about. Microsoft changed their Windows logo back when Windows XP came out too. Just because they've shown it along with their name, suddenly it's something to complain about?
Focus on the Apple articles please.

Respectfully, I disagree with the author's panning of the new logo. It might not set the world on fire, but it's good.

I look at the logo and see cues to Microsoft's Metro (or whatever) design as much as I see "Windows". Obviously MS is not going to throw away the Windows brand, as the author seems to suggest. To me, this logo ties the brand heritage of Windows (like it or not) to the forward leaning Metro-fied Microsoft. Combined with the Segoe typeface, I think it's good, and as good as you'd expect from a company like Microsoft.

Also, is the author suggesting their logo should simply have been the brand name in Segoe?

Couldn't disagree with this article more. I use Windows because I choose to. I enjoy the Windows experience moreso than any OSX or other Apple OS experience. I fail to understand why Apple users are so negative; it's the most popular operating system on the planet; just like iPhone is the most popular mobile device on the planet. People say that Windows development has stagnated, but to be perfectly honest with you, I haven't been blown away by the iPhone 4s or - from what I'm reading - the iPhone 5. But I will get the 5 when it comes out ---- because I don't want to purchase a first generation Windows 8 Phone. Want the kinks worked out.

Both Apple and Microsoft release fine productions, both widely popular across the globe. Why criticize a logo? Slow news day?

Re: "I don't want to purchase a first generation Windows 8 Phone."

You should get one. Because there just might not be a second generation Windows 8 Phone. Or Windows 9 Phone, for that matter.

Imagine the collector value in, say, 50 years. You'll have one of the few thousand Windows 8 Phones ever made. The sky is the limit.

Seriously people READ THE ARTICLE.

I really like the new logo. It would be a great logo... For Windows.

I'm amazed anyone who loves Microsoft is happy about Windows totally subsuming the brand. Microsoft should be so much more.

No it shouldn't.

Windows is one of the most successful products in human history, with hundreds of millions of users. Microsoft IS Microsoft because of Windows, not because of Office, or XBox. Windows users like what Windows give them, a platform to do anything they want. They don't need to show off their computers or their OSs, they need to have something that works and let they get their work and play done, and Windows does that beautifully. I should know, since Windows is the platform that has been bringing bread to my table for the past 15 years.

With the new brand Microsoft if just reinforcing its commitment around the Windows brand, a brand that will not go away in the foreseeable future. It's quite silly at this point to talk about a "Post PC world", that's just a line to sell tablets. Most business in the world revolve around PCs, be it Linux, Macs or Windows, and no business, not even Apple, is planning to replace its PCs with tablets. And even if this silliness was true, Microsoft's tablet OS is also called Windows, another sign of their commitment.

I really fail to see the reason to this rant, and would like to know your views on what Microsoft should be focusing if not Windows.

Windows IS Microsoft. There probably isn't a product out there by Microsoft (even Xbox) that isn't built on Windows. Just as iOS is built on OS X. The problem with your point (I think), is that Apple is only Apple because of their hardware, not because of their software (meaning, OS X). Apple is a hardware developer, for the most part. That is what they are known for these days, which gives them the ability to market themselves as just "Apple". Microsoft, on the other hand, is know for and only for, Windows. Yeah, they make Office and they make Xbox...but if you ask people what they think of first when they hear Microsoft, they will probably (10 times out of 10) say "Windows". I think associating their name with their bread and butter that ALL of their products are built on, is totally accurate.

I did read it, and I think you totally missed the point about the new logo. The focus of the logo is not Windows. It's about that UI formerly known as Metro. Microsoft is trying to make that a unifying theme across all of their products, so it is no surprise that they want to incorporate it into their branding. Kind of like Apple's association with the lowercase "i", but in a visual way.

Rene is right about the logo, they should have it just say the name. But maybe a little harsh on Windows but simmer down people.

They should have that logo as the Windows logo (with the company name). For Xbox they could have the big X with a halo over it followed by the new type faced name.

I don't see why this article should have been written in the first place. It proves absolutely NOTHING about Microsoft's "inability to strive for the future" it's a logo people... it only gives an image people can put together with the name of a company. When people look at the Apple logo they think of Apple Inc. and that's fair to say because they have branded it that way. I just don't see how Rene can say diddly squat about Microsoft by looking at their logo. Yes, it's a windows logo but the company that creates the product is Microsoft so what is the big deal if a company wants to resonate its name with its most successful product, which is windows? The idea that Microsoft is sticking to old ways BECAUSE OF A STUPID LOGO is ignorant because Apple has been notoriously known to ignore new technologies in order to stick to their own beliefs. It's nearly 2013 and they JUST got a 4 phone in production that has NFC and LTE.

Bottom line, a logo is used for consumers to identify a company with a brand. Microsoft and Apple both want this and in their own ways. Why bash one company when Apple did it long before?

If that's the mentality then why even have MobileNations in the first place? Listen to yourself before randomly posting stuff online it'll help you sound less ignorant.

Why I keep hearing the I phone business is bigger than all of Microsoft??? Revenues wise maybe but profits nope, if you go by profits or business apple is not big at all, they sell a niche product (the iphone) which you can argue is not the best phone out there and I phone 5 may be outdated already and it is not even out. What I'm saying apple went up too fast by building something easily copy.

On Windows Weekly, I saw images from Thurrott's Microsoft store opening gallery. (Worst sentence ever. Sorry.)

I'm more sold on the logo than ever. They mark the store, not with words, but with imagery - obviously, like Apple. It's a neat trick and one worth copying, when possible.

Also, the staff members are wearing one of the four colors of them emblem. It's surprising how much it works, visually, when taken in all-at-once.

Combine that with a bunch of devices and software with the same iconography (?) and you're taking some of the best lessons from Apple and applying them well. I'm surprised those pix made that much of a difference, but they did.

I have to agree with Renee on all points here I think many people are not understanding what the article is truly pointing out. However rather than restate what has already (above) I guess that it is has all boiled down to something that Steve Jobs, Vince McMahon and many great visionaries have all said "No one thing/idea/person/etc is bigger than Apple/WWE/etc" and therefore no matter how popular one thing has/had become it falls under the banner of said company. Microsoft is great as Microsoft becasue within that is a bunch of great products, I don't know why they or anyone would want to take away from that.

"Which they didn't. Microsoft says the new logo is all about signaling the future, but you don't do that by anchoring the entire company to the past."

I wish you guys would stick to covering apple. That argument shows your lack of knowledge. The way forward for Microsoft is the new (not metro) UI. It will be on their tablets, phones, consoles and PCs going forward.

This has nothing to do with "the past". They are simply leveraging the windows logo recognition for the new unified vision.

I am not a windows fanboy trying to stir things up... My apple addiction started with an iPod classic and now I do 90% of my non gaming computing on apple products. I wish apple would adopt a live tile like interface. I've used it and wish I had it on my iPhone that I love so much.

I think you're missing something really important. The UI on Windows 8, Windows Phone, xbox, etc, is composed of tiles/boxes. Just like in the Windows logo. When I look at the logo, I see Windows, yes, but I also see a representation of their new UI.

I come here for iOS related news, not a fanboy post about a rival company "clinging to the past", which they aren't doing. Look at Windows Phone. Innovation. Look at iPhone (which I own and love). Pretty much still the same exact thing it was a few years ago.

I think it simply looks like the "metro" interface, which will be prevalent on their mobile and desktop platforms; I like it.

Microsoft is the only company that clings to something that works, huh? iPod does well, now we have products called iPhone, iMac, iPad, iPod Touch, iCloud, iOS. Na.... only Microsoft clings to what works. This article is hypocritical on so many levels its laughable. Business is business... do what works.

ALRIGHT: I obviously didn't properly communicate what I wanted to communicate. I've updated the article to better express what I was trying to say.

Microsoft to me doesn't need to be bound to Windows. It could be so much more. Windows is great for desktop and server software. Let the other stuff be the other stuff.

I'm extremely happy Xbox isn't WindowsBox. I wish Windows Phone had a name as fresh and engaging as that.

Let this logo be the Windows logo, and let Microsoft be bigger than that.

One look at that stock price and I think even the market will agree -- Microsoft NEEDS to be more than Windows.

sounds like our imore guy is a little intimidated by the new windows logo. apple has more than android to worry about because these logos are driving forces in the game. most of those iphones are selling because ppl wanna show off the silver apple in the back

I agree with Rene's assessment. It looks as if they are trying to make "Microsoft" a "Windows" product and not the other way around. "Windows" is extremely well known, whether you like the product or not, and this just appears to be another sales/marketing gimmick. Personally I would prefer they spend more time innovating new products and perfecting old ones. But I guess a "New and Improved" label is all most people require to spend their coin. Guess they can save tons on R&D by just creating new logos every year.

WaIt, what? Hasn't Microsoft always been identified by some form of the windows logo? Did anyone else read this and then have to go hunting for the non-existent "previous" logo?

The Apples to Oranges comparison would show that Apple added an iOS or Mac logo, after having NO logo. In my mind, and probably much of the public's minds, the windows logo always was the Microsoft logo...

Dear Rene,

I believe you are wrong in assuming that the new logo is harkening back to Windows. I believe the new logo is giving tribute to the new tile-based Metro UI and the streamlined philosophy behind it. And even if it IS incorporating the Windows logo, the reason for it is recognition and association. Why does Amblin Entertainment's logo feature ET? Why would they refer to only ONE movie when Amblin obviously has produced many? Because it's a classic iconic film that people instantly recognize. The same is true with Windows. Love it or hate it, people recognize it. So please stop writing these lame smug rants and focus on what you do best - sucking up to Apple.