First look at MSN rebranding for Windows Phone apps suggests it is subtle

This morning, Microsoft detailed plans to push their Bing apps, like Weather, Finance, Food, News, to the MSN branding. Microsoft started this process some time ago when they first ditched 'Bing' in the name of those apps, and instead kept them with just their category-generic names.

During the Microsoft #moreLumia event last week, I showed you folks how the Microsoft Weather app and Lumia Denim play nicer together. Specifically, Glance gets what look to be third-party app support, letting other Lock screen apps appear on the Glance screen (see it above on a Lumia 830).

I also dug deeper into the Weather app as it is called 'Weather beta' in the app listing. This section is where I first noticed the 'MSN Weather' name pop up as seen in the About section of the app.

Indeed, Weather is jumping to MSN Weather branding in the coming months. The good news is that visually the Weather app is no different from the current form. In fact, without the Glance information you could not tell the difference. The only reason I point this out is personally, I am on the fence about the whole 'MSN' thing, which to me looks like a dead brand, one that was never really successful. I am not convinced that bringing back MSN, or giving it another push, is going to change anything.

Big app updates in the fall?

As a Windows Phone specialist, something I am interested in is whether this new MSN Weather app is compiled as a pure 8.1 app instead of the current Windows Phone 8.0 version compatible with 8.1. In case you do not know, one of the issues in performance differences between apps on Windows Phone is if they are built as 8.1 apps or not, including support for 'fast resume.' Steve Litchfield over at AAWP did a nice write-up explaining the problem – and how it is solvable by devs going forward.

My informed hunch is that Microsoft – and their big-ticket partners like Instagram and Twitter – are holding back on true Windows Phone 8.1 apps until the majority of users are on Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan. The marker for that is getting close as last month's AdDuplex numbers show that nearly 1/4 of users are now 8.1. By late September, when the new Lumia 730 and Lumia 830 are expected to launch, that number should be approaching 50% or more (my guesstimate).

Heck, if you look close enough in some photos, you can even see hints of forthcoming apps.

The problem with pulling the trigger too early is that app developers risk alienating the majority of their customers. Alternatively, maintaining two versions of the same app (8.0 and one for 8.1) is far from ideal either. Microsoft is having a hard enough time getting companies to support one app, asking them to do two is pushing it. However, there is a lot of incentive for companies to wait and do everything in 8.1, as it also means Universal apps for the Windows Store is more of a reality.

Wrapping it up, my intuition tells me that once these new phones hit later this month, and Windows Phone 8.1 becomes more of a reality for users, Windows Phone customers are going to see some excellent changes going forward. Hope springs eternal.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.