Microsoft’s new logo invokes touch-screen tiles

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft’s corporate logo has a new look, setting the stage for a wave of products designed to cast the world’s largest software maker in a new light.

The makeover unveiled Thursday marks the first time that Microsoft Corp. has revamped its logo since February 1987. The Internet was barely around then, and cellphones were considered a luxury.

At the time, Microsoft was putting the finishing touches on the second version of its Windows operating system. Two of Microsoft’s biggest nemeses — Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — were just 13 years old. And Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs was just in the second year of an 11-year exile from the company that went on to invent the iPod, iPhone and iPad after he returned.

By revamping its logo, Microsoft is trying to signal that it has changed its thinking and its products to cater to people who are interacting with technology much differently than just a decade ago, let alone a quarter century.

Now, more computing tasks are being done on touch-based devices such as smartphones and tablets instead of personal computers tethered to keyboards and mice. Many software applications are now supplied over high-speed Internet connections for a monthly fee instead of being installed on individual computers.

Microsoft believes a radical change to Windows will ensure that the company survives the technological upheaval. Windows 8, due to hit the market Oct. 26, displays software applications in a mosaic of tiles and has been engineered so it works on both touch-based tablets and traditional PCs. The company also is releasing its own Windows 8-powered tablet to compete against the iPad, accompanied by a new version of Office applications tailored for such devices. There also will be a Windows 8 operating system for smartphones.

The new logo ushers in “one of the most significant waves of product launches in Microsoft’s history,” Jeff Hansen, the company’s general manager of brand strategy, wrote in a blog post Thursday.

The redesign features the Microsoft name in a lighter, sans serif font called Segoe to replace the italic bold type used in the old standby. The new logo also includes the familiar red, blue, yellow and green colors used in the flag on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, but the colors will be in a square box instead of the curvy template that has been in place for years. Those color boxes invoke the tiles that will be central to Windows 8.

“The ways people experience our products are our most important `brand impressions,”’ Hansen wrote. “That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.”

The new logo made its debut Thursday on Microsoft’s websites, as well as three of its stores in Boston, Bellevue and Seattle, which is located near the company’s Redmond headquarters.

This is Microsoft’s fifth logo since Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded the company 37 years ago. When it last changed its logo in 1987, Microsoft had been a publicly traded company for less than a year and boasted a market value of about $2 billion. It peaked at more than $600 million in 1999. Now, Microsoft’s market value stands at $254 billion — less than half of Apple’s market value of $623 billion.

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