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It's only branding, but sometimes small details tells us a lot.

Microsoft has completed the transition from .NET to .NOT by giving its server and office product families a fresh lick of paint and new names. In January, Microsoft announced it would downplay the brand.

So the indiscriminate use of the .NET brand is no more. Last year Microsoft was fined by the city of New York for spraying graffiti logos of the MSN butterfly on Manhattan sidewalks, and whoever it is who has been going around the Redmond campus spraying .NET on every Microsoft product too, has now been told to put down the can.

From now on, the servers will be known as the "Windows Server System".

Asked about the name change at the PR section of Microsoft's site, Paul Flessner emits a sudden cloud of gwana gwana:-

"By aligning the new brand with the server platform, we are clarifying that our long-term server business and technology strategy starts with Windows Server at the foundation. With this new brand, we are emphasizing to our customers and industry partners the business value of a top-to-bottom integrated server infrastructure," he says.

That's a long-winded way of saying that servers are best described as "servers", and not some amorphous blob of language, runtime, or webservices: .NET clearly meant a lot of things to a lot of people at Redmond, but very little to the outside world.

However a better explanation for the change was gleaned by Network World's John Fontana, who quotes Microsoft's Barry Goffe thus:-

"We've been inconsistent about what is in and what is out of that lineup. We've done a lot of things seemingly in a vacuum."

A remarkable statement. Dereferencing the .NET pointer reveals its value to be NULL.

But there's more. Office also gains the "system" tag, and from now on will be known as "Office System 2003".

So Microsoft is a systems company.

Someone should tell IBM, Sun, Apple, HP and EMC: these are systems companies too, in the traditional, vertically integrated sense. Microsoft is a horizontal company in that it doesn't tie its software to its own hardware, except in two cases: the Xbox, which is simply a PC running in Ring 0 (kernel mode), and smartphones, where nobody wants to make Microsoft phones, so it must do so it itself.

But as we said at the beginning. This is only branding.®

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