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Microsoft Office 365–The Names That Might Have Been

by Guy Creese  |  October 21, 2010  |  3 Comments

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced Office 365–the combining of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft Office Live Small Business, and Live@edu with Office (cloud or software). I posted about it yesterday; Jeff Mann posted about it the day before. In his post, Jeff mused about the name:

Do I really want to be in the Office 365 days per year? What happens in leap years (Microsoft gives you a day off once every four years). I honestly don’t think that it would be possible to come up with anything that would not have some kind of downside, and it certainly is better than BPOS or some other anodyne acronym.

I’d also thought about the name–“Why didn’t they call it Office 366? That would take care of leap year and on a 1-to-10 dial it would be like going to 11 for normal years.” As a former product manager (9 years) I was involved in many product naming exercises, and I thought it would be fun to meander through some possible alternatives and the potential discussion around them.

To be clear, this is a fantasy naming exercise. Microsoft never asked me for my advice about the name “Office 365” and I have no idea if they pondered any of the following  alternatives. This is to be taken as a lighthearted romp through the daily humdrum of a product manager. Some alternative product names could have been:

  • Office 24/7–“On the upside, it shows that it’s always available. On the downside, if the service ever goes down, some irate customer will sue us for making a promise with the product name that we didn’t fulfill.”
  • Office Blue–“Hey, what about using a color? We’ve done nouns (Word), verbs (Excel), made up words (Visio), combination words (PowerPoint), numbers (Office 97), and years (Office 2010), but never a color. How about ‘Office Blue’? It’s a nice, calm color; Bing, MSN, and Silverlight all use blue in their logos. Calling it Office Blue would irritate Big Blue (IBM) and that would be a good thing… Oh, good point. I’d forgotten about the BSD (Blue Screen of Death). Never mind.”
  • Office 2011–“Well, that’s when we’ll ship it, but then we’ll get support calls from people wondering how it differs from Office 2010, and that will get way too complicated and keep Customer Support Engineers on the phone too long. We can’t afford that name.”
  • Office/BPOS/MOLSB/Live@edu–“This is excellent! It preserves the investment we’ve made in the previous brands while bringing them together under one moniker. Huh? What do you mean it’s too difficult to remember?”
  • Office Partly Cloudy–“This name highlights the fact that this is a combination cloud/software offering. It’s ‘partly cloudy’–get it?”
  • Office As You Like It–“Customers can buy as little or as much as they need–it’s “As You Like It.” Oh. Hmm. You don’t like the Shakespeare connection, huh? Worried that people will start calling it, ‘The Taming of the Shrew?'”

Given what could have been, the name “Office 365” doesn’t look too bad….


Guy Creese
Research VP
4 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Guy Creese is a vice president and research director for Gartner Research, within the Gartner for Technical Professionals division. He covers a range of topics at the intersection of collaboration, content management, and communications. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Microsoft Office 365–The Names That Might Have Been

  1. Jeffrey Mann says:

    Office 666
    No, don’t think so.

  2. Pankaj says:

    A little unimaginative. They must’ve wanted Office 360 but that was already taken.

  3. Robert says:

    Love the names… especially ‘Partly Cloudy’. What about ‘Office Overcast’?

    Honestly, I didn’t think BPOS was that bad… once I figured out what it meant. It’s as good as most of Microsoft’s other product names.


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