If Microsoft had invented the iPod, it would have been called the Microsoft I-pod Pro 2005 Human Ear Professional Edition. The cult-hit video that makes that assertion may have been a joke, but it rings true. And when word emerged that the video was a self-parody produced within Microsoft, the point was even clearer: The world's largest software developer just isn't very good at naming stuff.
Some Microsoft names sound clunky; some are confusing; some are undignified or overambitious. More than any other company in technology, the Redmond powerhouse loves to change product names--often replacing one lackluster label with an equally uninspired one. Microsoft has also been known to mess up some names that are actually perfectly good, such as Windows and Word, by needlessly tampering with them.
Herewith, in chronological order, are ten Microsoft names that could have been a lot better, together with some semiconstructive advice on monikers that would have more euphonious and/or more accurate. I also selected six not-quite-as-bad runners-up.
1993: Word 6.0 for Windows: When Microsoft upgraded 1991's popular Word 2.0 for Windows, it replaced it with...no, not something logical like Word 3.0. Rather, it blithely hopscotched over three version numbers and landed at Word 6.0. The official explanation for the skippage was that it brought the Windows edition's version number into line with that of the older DOS incarnation of Word. But conspiracy theorists noted that it also allowed Word to catch up with archrival WordPerfect, which also released a version 6.0 in 1993.
Whatever the rationale, the move rendered the practical purpose of version numbers meaningless, thereby setting a bad example for other companies such as Netscape, which later went straight from Netscape Navigator 4.0 to version 6.0.
What it should have been called: Word 3.0 for Windows. Simple and accurate.
1995: Microsoft Bob. When I asked my Twitter and Facebook pals to nominate bad Microsoft names, this legendarily lousy Windows front-end hosted by animated characters came up far more often than any other product. It's possible that the badness of the product has tarnished its title. But as several people pointed out, "Microsoft Bob" is both cutesy-cute and uninformative--it doesn't give you an inkling as to what the product is all about. (The box featured a smiley face wearing Bill Gates-like nerdy glasses, but the main character in the interface was a dog named Rover, who was later revived for Windows XP's misbegotten search feature.)
What it should have been called: Well, Microsoft Rover would have been at least slightly more descriptive--especially since the product itself was such a dog.