Microsoft announced the name of its Windows 10 browser last week. While the code name, Project Spartan, was exciting and invoked visions of dominance and strength, the final name Microsoft picked is totally dull and mundane. Microsoft Edge is the successor to Internet Explorer, but the software giant had a huge opportunity to bury the bad image of IE, and it has blown it.
Microsoft Edge sounds like some type of datacenter or corporate IT package from a decade ago. It’s not cool, exciting, or even remotely interesting. It’s boring and sounds like the dreadful EDGE pre-3G internet connection that nobody wants on their phones these days. My friends joke that their iPhones are on the "edge of death" when they see the little E icon, and Microsoft Edge just reminds me of a bad internet connection or a WWE wrestler. Neither of those are cool.
A safe and bad bet
Since Microsoft has picked Edge, you would expect a cool new logo and splashy brand, but that hasn’t happened. Microsoft’s Edge logo simply clings to the past by acting as a safe bet and mimicking the Internet Explorer logo. They’re both a lowercase "e," and all that’s really removed from the Edge logo is the halo from the IE logo. It's designed this way for those who are familiar with the IE logo as it exists today, the generation that are still using the browser. Microsoft should be more concerned with the masses that have moved to download Chrome or Firefox, which both have completely different names and logos.
What this all really highlights is Microsoft’s inability to let go of the past. Internet Explorer will even remain in some copies of Windows 10, aimed squarely at legacy enterprise users. Microsoft admitted it has been doing user research into this new name, and the company tends to rely on these focus groups far too heavily. "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them," said former Apple CEO Steve Jobs back in 1998. Relying on these focus groups often results in misguided product decisions. Microsoft used a "Customer Experience Improvement Program" as an indicator that the company should scrap the Start button and Start Menu in Windows 8. That terrible decision has been reversed for Windows 10, and feedback opened more broadly.
When Microsoft listens, it results in Cortana
When Microsoft does listen to broader feedback, it usually results in something people actually care about. Take Cortana for example. Microsoft was going to name its digital assistant Naomi, Alyx, or a number of other equally boring alternatives, but leaks and an online petition helped sway Microsoft’s decision. Cortana is such a unique name that it’s on the verge of entering the mainstream thanks to the positivity around the feature and Microsoft’s marketing of it.
Microsoft had an opportunity to create the same buzz and excitement around its Internet Explorer successor by getting the name right. When Firefox started swaying people away from Internet Explorer, it did so with a combination of good features, word of mouth, and an awesome red panda taking over the world for its logo and brand. While Microsoft is doing a lot of cool things right now, Microsoft Edge is just a reminder of corporate suits, Internet Explorer 6, and the past.