Outlook name confusion

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The new version of Hotmail is called ‘Outlook’ – just ‘Outlook’ – at least on the web site itself.

The new version of Hotmail is called ‘Outlook’ – just ‘Outlook’ – at least on the web site itself.

In the promotional material for the new service it’s called Outlook.com which is a better name because it’s clearly different from Outlook software and Outlook Web Access.

We asked Microsoft about the possibility of confusion by using merely the name ‘Outlook’ and here’s their entire response:

As a company we’ve been simplifying our approach for individuals. You’ve seen it with the “metro-style” design. You’ve seen it with SkyDrive. We’re taking the same approach with mail – we want to have a brand that means mail from Microsoft. Outlook means that today for many people, and is in general a very strong brand.

So it seems strong branding is more important than customer confusion. As we mentioned before, plenty of people mix up ‘Outlook’ and ‘Outlook Express’ two very different email clients with similar names.

There’s nothing wrong with strong branding – ‘Windows’ is a strong brand – but each version of Windows is explicitly named ‘Windows 95’ , ‘Windows 8’ etc. There’s never been a release just called ‘Windows’.

The next release of the ‘Hotmail Connector for Outlook’ could be called, according to Microsoft strong branding logic, ‘Outlook Connector for Outlook’!  Of course it won’t be. Most likely it’ll be named ‘Hotmail/Outlook.com Connector for Outlook’ or similar.

It would be better for everyone, and still be a strong brand, if the new service was consistently called ‘Outlook.com’ – especially on the web site itself.

Sadly that’s not going to happen. The decision has been made. Microsoft’s desire for branding and unwillingness to admit error will maintain the new naming despite the problems it’ll cause customers and their own support staff.

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