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The Nokia-to-Microsoft rebranding has been a long time coming, and frankly there’s still a long road ahead. Yet now that Microsoft has finally confirmed that “Microsoft Lumia” will be the new name, it’s worth looking at what’s at stake.

Can a new name really help Microsoft catch up to Apple and Google, which are miles ahead of it in the smartphone race?

Not by itself, of course. But this is a notable milestone in a massive restructuring story for Microsoft. Not only will Lumia play an increasingly big role in the company’s attempt to be relevant in mobile, but also it’s adding to Redmond’s growing hardware portfolio, which now includes phones, game consoles, and tablet computers. The brand needs to reflect that.

What we already knew

We knew Microsoft had gained full rights to the Lumia brand, the Nokia brand on smartphones for 18 months, and the Nokia brand on feature phones for 10 years. We knew Nokia continues to exist as a separate company, just without its devices division; the Finnish firm now focuses on its NSN network infrastructure, Here mapping, and patent-licensing operations.

So at one point or another, Nokia had to go away for smartphones, and Lumia was likely to stay.

Over the last few months, Microsoft already made some changes on the marketing side. The company’s apps for Windows Phone dropped the Nokia name and replaced it with Lumia and ads stopped referencing Nokia (and even Windows Phone — but that’s another story involving Windows 10).

From the very first day the Nokia deal was announced, Microsoft promised it would continue to sell and support existing devices as well as make new ones. Now we know what it will call them.

What’s technically new today

It’s now official that Microsoft’s smartphones will be branded “Microsoft Lumia.” Microsoft also shared it would be “unveiling a Microsoft Lumia device soon.” The new part there is “a” (meaning just one) and “soon” (meaning it might be available in time for the holiday season).

The “Microsoft” part of the new name is important. The company could have simply gone with Lumia, Xbox Lumia, Surface Lumia, Xbox phone, Surface phone, or whatever other combination you might dream up.

Here’s why it didn’t take any of those options:

The Lumia brand is a strong one, so it makes sense to keep it. Microsoft could have designed a Lumia logo (Nokia Lumia devices say “Nokia” but not “Lumia” on them), but that wouldn’t make much sense, given it wouldn’t have been stronger than the Microsoft brand.

The company could have chosen just “Lumia” with a Windows logo, to match how the Surface computers are designed, but that’s much more difficult to pull off on phones than on tablets. The Microsoft brand needs to be on the devices in retail stores to compete with Apple, Samsung, LG, and the like.

Microsoft also shared the following images:



Although it never directly referenced them, the message here is clear: The Microsoft name will appear on at least the front or rear of Lumia devices. Maybe it will be both.

Microsoft is also changing all its websites and social accounts to reflect the new brand. All webpages, from the most local to the most global, will eventually say Microsoft Lumia, as will the company’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

In short, Xbox is for entertainment, Surface is for computers, and Lumia is for smartphones.

What we still don’t know

A few questions remain.

If Microsoft continues to make Lumia tablets, what will they be called? Frankly, we think Microsoft shouldn’t bother with any more Lumia tablets. Yet the company isn’t talking about these devices today, and when we asked, we got a typical “no comment” response. Unlike the Android phones, which are being slowly phased out in favor of Windows Phone, a Lumia tablet successor will likely just never surface.

It’s also not clear how long Microsoft will continue to make Nokia feature phones. Ten years is a long time to keep the brand alive, and we just don’t see a need to do so.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s no telling how the rebranding will affect sales. There’s no doubt that many Lumia devices sold because they had the Nokia name on them, not because they were called Lumias or were running Windows Phone.

Microsoft already has a tough, uphill battle in the smartphone space. “Microsoft Lumia” may be the only logical rebranding option, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily help the company.

Expect Microsoft to address this problem the usual way: By throwing lots of advertising dollars around.

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