What does the new Microsoft logo say about Microsoft?

I’m going to do my best Armin Vit impression, but you should definitely check out his take on the new logo when he undoubtedly gets to it tomorrow. Until then, here are my thoughts.

What does the new Microsoft logo say about Microsoft?

1. Windows.

2. Metro… but don’t forget Windows.

3. Windows.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the old Microsoft logo. It’s been used since 1987 and honestly they could have used this for another 25 years and no one would have batted an eye. It wasn’t earth shattering design work, but it was perfectly fine. I kinda liked the way the o and the s in the word mark tied together. (OS. Operating system. Get it?)

Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with this new logo either. It’s a little generic, but nice looking. It’s clean and simple. It looks the way you would expect a Microsoft logo from 2012 would look like. Most people won’t know there was change. That’s a good thing.

That Microsoft felt compelled to change their logo at this point in time is interesting to me. It may only have been because they wanted to modernize it a bit, but I would like to think its because they see this as a defining moment of change for the company.

Surface tablets are around the corner. Windows 8 is coming out soon. Windows Phone is trying claw its way back into the mobile game. It does seem appropriate to mark the occasion as the relaunch of Microsoft.

But in typical Microsoft fashion, they can’t seem to make a real decision. Windows 8 is both Metro and Windows. The Windows RT tablet breaks from the past, but there is also an identical looking “full Windows experience” version complete with a trackpad.

I get the feeling that there is a big cultural war happening within the company. The “new” guys are at war with the “old” guys. The old guys were winning for awhile, but the new guys are making moves. The new guys want to sweep away the cruft and bring focus. The old guys want to keep doing what got them to #1. Since they are no longer #1, the old guys are willing to make some concessions.

The concessions are what make Microsoft so maddening right now. You watch one of their product launches and they get 75% right. Really right. The last 25% makes you slam your head into a wall. They get so close and then fall back into the old traps.

So what this new logo says to me is consistent with what we have seen from Microsoft for the past three or so years: They are trying to be all things to all people. They can’t fully let go of the past and they can’t fully embrace the future. Given a choice between A and B, they choose “Yes”.

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