OneOS: What Microsoft Should Call the Next Version of Windows

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I’m not usually one to hand out free marketing advice, but given Microsoft’s recent announcement of significant cuts in its labor force I’m not sure that they’ll be hiring any new marketing people anytime soon. I’d hate for good marketing ideas (in my opinion, anyways) to go to waste, and so here you go, Microsoft. Something to think about…

A Little Background
Since beginning my little odyssey of transitioning to all Microsoft products, I’ve been taking a hard look not only at the company’s products but also at how they’re marketing them. After all, my investment will be wasted if Microsoft can’t make headway and ultimately fails in the market. While I definitely believe that Microsoft has a powerful strategy, I have to say that their marketing–specifically their product positioning–is a bit of a jumbled mess right now.

I won’t delve into why Microsoft is in this position; that’s fodder for another post. Suffice it to say that I think their business model as a software company providing a wide range of products and services to consumers, small and midsized businesses, and the enterprise has afforded them less flexibility in reacting to the sweeping changes in the industry over the past five years or so. Combined with poor execution in some areas, particularly in the mobile devices space, this inflexibility has resulted in a company that’s a mishmash of the old and the new, and it shows in the products they’re offering and how they’re positioning those products to the market.

One glaring example is Microsoft’s subscription music service, Xbox Music. It seems wrong to me that they’re tying the service to the Xbox when they’re striving to expand it onto other platforms.

It’s not that Xbox is a bad brand. In fact, it’s probably Microsoft’s strongest consumer brand. However, it’s also still tightly connected with the Xbox as a gaming console, and while I don’t believe Microsoft will completely abandon Xbox as its entryway into the living room, they’ve definitely taken a step back from Xbox as purely (or primarily) an entertainment play by cancelling plans to develop original Xbox content. It seems that Xbox will return to its roots as a gaming platform while serving as an incubator for new technologies like Kinect.

Therefore, “Xbox Music” and its cousin, “Xbox Video,” makes little sense to me. Far fewer people own Xbox consoles than own all of the devices for which Microsoft is writing music (and video) clients, specifically the various Windows platforms, iOS, and Android. To be blunt, I don’t see the typical iPad owner being all too impressed with “Xbox” Music. Even as a Microsoft fan, I’ve felt the switch from Google Music to Xbox Music to be a bit jarring, not because I see anything seriously wrong with the service, but because the name simply doesn’t feel, well, cohesive with everything else I’m doing.

As part of my Microsoft transition, I’ve also been looking hard at migrating from Evernote to OneNote. During my Tablet PC days, I was an avid OneNote user, and I switched to Evernote only because I branched out and started looking at platforms that didn’t support OneNote. Today, however, OneNote runs on every platform I use, and therefore I’ve made it a project to copy my thousands of Evernote notes into OneNote and to start using the latter again as my primary note taking solution.

I’m doing the same with OneDrive, which is also now available for all of my platforms. I’ve not been as dedicated to a single cloud storage solution, but if I would have had to choose one over the last couple of years, it would have been Dropbox. Because OneDrive is an integral part of the Microsoft ecosystem, being tightly integrated with Windows, Office and particularly OneNote, I also have a project to start using OneDrive exclusively.

All of which got me to thinking. OneNote is the one place where I keep all of my notes, and OneDrive is the one place where I keep all of my files. And since it’s the one place where I keep all of my music, why shouldn’t Microsoft’s music service be called “OneMusic”?

Consider as well that Microsoft has invested significant time and money in their “One Microsoft” initiative, which is the attempt to create a single, unified company out of something that has historically been comprised of disjointed silos. The strategy outlined by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is s significant step in this transformation; some consider the strategy as a departure from Balmer’s efforts, but I see it more as a progression–one that’s made necessary by the company’s complexity.

Regardless, the number “One” seems to come up over and over.

OneOS
With that said, let’s look at Microsoft’s operating systems. We have the full-featured Windows on the desktop and notebook, the ill-fated Windows RT for tablets, and Windows Phone for smartphones. With Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft is pulling their operating systems together, using one kernel (Windows NT), one programming API (Universal Apps), and one design theme (the modern UI, or what used to be called Metro) to create what is essentially a single OS. Windows 8.1’s desktop mode is the only outlier (and a necessary one, given the millions of legacy Windows applications). There’s even a rumor that this shared framework will be called OneCore.

And so, consider: we have “One Microsoft,” OneNote, OneDrive, Xbox One, and possibly OneCore. We should have OneMusic and OneVideo. And we could even have OneOffice and OneCloud (a.k.a. Azure) if Microsoft wanted to be entirely consistent (possibly to a fault).

Thus, and wait for it… Why shouldn’t we have Microsoft OneOS?

Think about it for a minute. Apple has OS X and iOS. Google has Chrome OS and Android.

Microsoft could have OneOS. Kind of rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

There’s already been a great deal of talk about how Microsoft should use something other than “Windows 8.X” to designate the next version of their OS, because the current version has joined Windows Vista in suffering from negative connotations. Indeed, I would submit that the Windows brand in general has been sullied, with Windows RT being perceived as an abject failure and, though it’s well-respected in most circles, Windows Phone not exactly being synonymous with market success.

Why keep “Windows” at all, then? Especially “Windows 9”, which reeks of the ancient. Instead, how about a real break with the past? In addition to being completely fresh and new, Microsoft OneOS would immediately communicate Microsoft’s central strategy, that is, “one operating system, many devices.” You’d have desktops and notebooks running OneOS, tablets and hybrids running OneOS, and smartphones running OneOS. Developers would write their applications for OneOs, and users would download apps for OneOS, no matter which device they’re using. From a branding perspective, any decent copywriter should already be salivating at the possibilities.

Even from a statistical perspective, OneOS makes sense. Today, by their own admission, Microsoft owns roughly 14% of the overall market if you consider every type of device. Going forward, Microsoft could account for OneOS market share in exactly the same way, marking their progress in capturing an increasing share of the larger market. Or, if they like, they can continue to break out market share by device type to accentuate their strengths (e.g., OneOS runs on 90% of full-featured desktops and notebooks).

As I started writing this post, I expected it to be longer and to cover more ground. However, as it turns out, it’s really pretty obvious to me just how much sense this makes.

Microsoft, if you’re listening, give it some thought (if you haven’t already). You’d have to figure out how to fit Xbox into the equation, because it, too, will eventually be running the same OS as every other Microsoft platform. Maybe you keep the Xbox name, because it’s the one that still has the most value, although given Xbox One sales vs. the PS4, maybe even that brand has lost some of its appeal. Maybe your hardware simply has its own branding, with Xbox for the console, Surface for tablets and hybrids, and Lumia for smartphones. OneOS simply ties it all together–Xbox One running OneOS, Surface running OneOS, and Lumia running OneOS.

There you have it, then. Microsoft OneOS.

Version One, of course.

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  1. […] my impressions of the Surface Pro 3, I waxed philosophical about how well the machine fits within Microsoft’s vision of “one operating system, many devices,” but is it a perfect machine? Of course not. No matter how far technology has progressed in making a […]

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