Digital Lifestyle Marketing Microsoft Web

Is There Anybody Hohm?

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My reaction to Microsoft Hohm is mixed. The branding and marketing are quite clever, and that’s yet another welcome change. More fundamentally, Hohm is yet another example of Microsoft chasing Google’s tail. Maybe Microsoft should conserve some energy by taking a shorter path rather than tagging behind the weaving Google.

Microsoft describes Hohm as a “free online beta application that helps you save energy and money. With Microsoft Hohm you can better understand your home energy usage, get recommendations to conserve energy and start saving.”

The word Hohm plays off “ohm,” the SI (International System of Units) term for electrical impedance or resistance. But the obvious pronunciation is your dwelling, or home. The connotations are positive, and because of the pronunciation it’s a brand name people are likely to remember. I love it.

But the branding gets even better. The Hohm logo incorporates the Greek letter for Omega, which also represents ohm. It’s a nice touch and shows somebody is thinking about marketing.

Microsoft marketing just gets better and better. Go back just three years, and you’ll find blog posts where I bitch about Microsoft’s bad branding practices, which includes consent rebranding. That’s not to say Microsoft doesn’t continue to befuddle with strange branding decisions. Yesterday the company launched Security Essentials, formerly codenamed “Morro.” I joined the beta and downloaded the software, but won’t have real opportunity to install it before the weekend.

The “Essentials” branding is confusing. Microsoft has too many products using the term “Essentials,” which purposes have nothing in common—at least from a branding perspective. Some examples:

  • Money Essentials (which Microsoft will retire next week)
  • System Center Essentials 2007
  • Learning Essentials 2.0 (for Office)
  • XML Paper Specification Essentials Pack
  • Windows Live Essentials

That’s a shortlist, but long enough. Of course, I digress. Hohm branding is simply delightful. It’s a model for other new Microsoft brands. Oh, and I consider Bing to be of excellent branding stature, too.

But Hohm the product is another matter. Once again, Microsoft is chasing Google. About five months ago, Google announced PowerMeter, which offers many of the same benefits. Yesterday, I complained that Microsoft is too focused following Google. Is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ever going to get off this Google kick? Chasing Google has got him looking the wrong way. Google is a distraction.

How about Microsoft lead Google for a change, by developing new products or services Google must follow. I want to see Microsoft the innovator, not Microsoft the ambulance chaser. Instead, it’s Google does this and Microsoft does that. If Steve Ballmer wants to be the leader, then lead.

If Hohm is where the heart is, Microsoft’s corporate will is somewhere else.

Photo Credit: Bes Zain


  1. Also, Microsoft Surface. Good branding and product, but they haven’t really released anything except planned touch improvements in some of their products they are releasing this year.

  2. billybob says on June 25, 2009

    Are we listing Microsoft products that cost a fortune to develop but will never bring in any real income?

    My favourite was the Spot watch – there was some awesome branding applied to that product. Not to mention anything branded Live, or .NET.

    How on earth can something be a good brand if it is virtually impossible to pronounce without being told? At first, I thought it was pronounced something like Ho-Hum. It reminds me of Cuil.

  3. I agree that Microsoft has a lot of work to do in innovating in their front-end products. I also agree that Microsoft is improving in their marketing.

    Where I think you’re missing the mark, Joe, is in remembering that Microsoft has always built its dominance on making it as easy as possible for developers to build products based on MS’s platforms. This necessitates innovation behind the scenes – in underlying frameworks and tools. In this arena, Microsoft’s innovation is without comparison.

    One example is WPF. The technology is only now hitting its stride since its introduction with Windows Vista and .NET 3.0, but it’s a programming concept that has begun revolutionizing the way we think about developing UI. Silverlight is an outgrowth of the concept, and Flash has begun copying the idea with Flex.

    Another behind-the-scenes innovation is LINQ. This allows the developer to do amazing things in their code with a tenth of the effort. The very idea of LINQ is a Microsoft original, and I’m unaware of any other platform that has it yet.

    You might justly ask, well, what do I as a paying consumer care about how easy Microsoft makes your job as a developer? My response: The easier Microsoft makes my job, the more time and resources I can dedicate to creating a product which amazes you. The effect is that Microsoft’s innovation in the background enables my innovation in the foreground – all on Microsoft’s platform. It’s why Windows has built a 90%+ market share on the desktop. It’s a sound business model, and one which they are trying (with a debatable level of success) to adapt to the Internet and mobile worlds.

    No, innovation is not Microsoft’s problem. Their problem is flexibility.

  4. billybob says on June 25, 2009

    What will you do when the day comes that Windows only has a 70% share of internet connected devices and your customers are demanding access from their iPhones?

    You will either have to write for many different devices, tell your customers to only use Windows branded software or just move to the web and HTML5.

    Microsoft make your job harder if your job is not “write applications that only run on Windows for customers that only run Windows”.

  5. I think your also missing the point that stuff like this didn’t get created in the 5 months since Google announced PowerMeter. Balmer didn’t see PowerMeter and say: Holy crap how did I miss that one. Lets get 100 developers on this because I want a new product within 6 months. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Now lets take a look at what’s happening in the economy. Is there a market for this type of service? The answer is yes. Do we need to reduce the effects of global warming from fossil fuel usage? The answer is yes. Can add on products be developed by Microsoft and others for their platform? The answer is yes. Need I continue?

    This is classic Microsoft and a path that will pay dividends for a whole new ecosystem of products, services, and software, for consumers running Windows Vista and 7 eager to reduce utility bills.

  6. Your concern is valid for commercial development, but the vast majority of the lines of code written out there are never sold. Most of us developers are working on internal custom stuff for our company. As long as our company is on Microsoft’s platform, our code will work. Since the company has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the development of this code, it’s a big anchor to stick with the platform. Microsoft’s innovation on that platform is what encourages us to set that anchor.

    I’m not talking about what might be smart for my company; I’m talking about what is smart for Microsoft. Their business model to keep us buying their products is sound. And if I’m wrong? Well, I’ll learn a new platform. No big deal.

    In the arena of commercial software, Silverlight has a very promising future, and it’s being developed to run on many devices. MS has a very strong contender there, and it is not a Windows-dependent offering.

    As for your comment about iPhones specifically, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. We’re seeing history repeat itself; Apple’s doing the same thing with the iPhone that they did with the Macintosh: build a great product several years ahead of its time, then destroy it by locking down development and keeping the entire ecosystem proprietary. iPhone will be around a while, but like Macs it’ll be niche unless Apple changes their ways. I agree with Joe that pocket-sized mobile computing is the future, though I think it’ll take closer to fifteen years rather than the five he suggests; either way, I don’t expect Apple to be a big part of that future.

    Ballmer may have looked foolish with his “Developers, developers, developers!” chant – but he was right. And Apple doesn’t get it.

  7. That’s a good point, RDee. Microsoft has to have been working on Hohm longer than PowerMeter’s been out.

    What it shows, though, is that Microsoft’s competitors are running rings around it. They can’t execute nimbly enough and it’s going to turn them into IBM in the next decade. They’ll keep the dwindling desktop market just as IBM kept the dwindling mainframe market, but they’re going to be marginalized on newer devices because their smaller, scrappier competitors will simply be able to execute better and faster. So much for the Evil Microsoft Monopoly. Viva la capitalism!

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