by Al Sacco

Microsoft “SkyMarket”: Not a Cheesy Airline Catalog, a New Mobile App Store

Jan 26, 20094 mins
Enterprise Applications

Hot on the heels of news that Research In Motion’s (RIM) upcoming BlackBerry Application Storefront is now accepting submissions for a planned March launch, new rumors suggest Microsoft will try its own hand in the mobile-application-store game. The software giant will reportedly launch a new mobile app distribution channel, codenamed “SkyMarket,” at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona next month. Today there are more unanswered questions about the Microsoft app store than answered ones, but a single query in particular sits atop my list: Who comes up with these names?

image of the original Terminator
“SkyMarket does have a nice ring to it…”

SkyMarket, along with a few companion offerings known as “SkyBox” and “SkyLine,” conjure images of horribly tacky, in-flight retail magazines, cheap vodka and a futuristic computer system gone homicidally wrong. (Think: “I’ll be back.”). And that’s just not good for business.

I’ll start this post by saying that very few technical details are available on SkyMarket, and that’s why I’m focusing on such an inane topic as Microsoft’s product naming conventions. But first, here’s what we know—or at least what has been reported–about Microsoft’s pending MWC announcements:

  • Microsoft is expected to unveil SkyMarket, its new mobile marketplace and rival to Apple’s iTunes App Store and both RIM’s BlackBerry Application Center and Application Storefront. This service will only be available on Windows Mobile devices and will spotlight both new and older Windows Mobile software.

  •  Redmond will also likely announce “SkyBox,” a new, Web-based offering meant to help users sync online phone information, not unlike Apple’s current MobileMe service. SkyBox is said to include automatic backup and restore options, along with phone data management functionality. Skybox will also reportedly be available to users of non-Windows Mobile device, which would set it apart from the MobileMe service that currently works only for iPhone owners.

  • “SkyLine” could also be unveiled. SkyLine, though similar to SkyBox, will be meant for SMBs and will integrate with Microsoft’s Exchange.

  • Finally, Windows Mobile 6.5, the latest upgrade to Microsoft’s mobile OS, is expected to be announced, though little is known about the OS, beyond what was revealed in recently leaked “concept shots.”

Now, back to the (less noteworthy yet slightly more entertaining) Microsoft product naming debacle: There was the whole Vista-thing, which ironically, is kind of a cool name, in my opinion. However, the poor early performance of the product and nasty reputation it gained as a result, quickly forced Microsoft to not only scrap the Vista tag, but return to its previous mainstay naming convention, Windows, for its next major OS, Windows 7.

Then there was the title Microsoft bestowed upon its portable media player and iPod rival, the “Zune.” Not too bad, you say? If so, you’re not too familiar with the PR brouhaha over the fact that in the Hebrew language, Zune sounds an awful lot like a curse word that in English starts with the letter “f.”

In Microsoft’s defense, the SkyMarket, SkyBox and SkyLine monikers are reportedly codenames—they could be officially named under the Windows Live umbrella–and code-names often sound silly. But the company went live with Zune and Silverlight, both of which seem ridiculous to me. So who knows? The company supposedly puts a lot of thought and effort into the names it assigns its products—as it should. However, I’d recommend it start putting an equal amount of energy into selecting the companies that will make its creative naming decisions.

You can expect

more on SkyMarket and Windows Mobile 6.5 next month during MWC, which will take place February 16 through February 19.