Yesterday, the world was introduced to Inori Aizawa, an anime character created to promote Internet Explorer in Singapore. Many saw the move as unusual, but some of Microsoft's Asia-based subsidiaries have been using anime to boost their products' appeal for years.
Over the past decade, Microsoft has used over 10 individual characters to improve user and developer awareness of its software and infrastructure. These are its most memorable.
- Nanami Madobe is Microsoft Japan's official Windows 7 mascot. Her name is a play on the Japanese words for window (mado) and seven (nana). She was the first Microsoft anime character to get her own video, a guide to assembling a new PC. Her Twitter account is still up and running, albeit under the name of her fictitious sister, Matsumi.
- Claudia Madobe is perhaps the most utilized character in Microsoft's arsenal. She's a second cousin of Mutsumi and Nanami, named for the Japanese pronunciation of "cloud." Claudia's job is to educate developers about Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure.
- To do this, she's starred in several web comics, all of which are available (in Japanese) at Microsoft's Cloud Girl portal. To entice developers further, Microsoft briefly gave away Claudia figurines with the purchase of its Visual Studio development environment.
- Microsoft's anime efforts are mostly focused on appealing to developers. This unnamed character adorns an otherwise bland page about Microsoft Virtualization.
- It's not just Microsoft Japan that tries to appeal to developers with anime. Microsoft Taiwan promotes Silverlight using a character called Hikaru Aizawa. She's also the star of her own instructional video, and features in seasonal images shared by Microsoft Taiwan's Silverlight site.
- The latest image is appropriately titled Wallpaper Summer 2013.
- With the launch of Windows 8 and RT came two new characters, Madobe Yū and Madobe Ai, targeted mainly at the PC-building community.
- Yū and Ai had their own limited edition versions of Windows 8 and accompanying merchandise, which featured heavily in the Akihabara, Tokyo launch of the OS.
- No character has been quite like Inori Aizawa, though. Introduced to the world in a commercial titled "Internet Explorer: The Anime," Inori is made to entice the masses, rather than developers or enthusiasts, to try out Microsoft's steadily improving browser.
- Inori has her own Facebook page, website, a collection of wallpapers, and even a custom edition of Internet Explorer. Microsoft is keeping the canon going with Inori — her Facebook page notes she's Hiraku's cousin, and is close friend with Yū and Ai.