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Could Microsoft's Surface become the 'Lumia'?

A rumor emerges that Microsoft will integrate certain elements of Nokia branding into its product names. Would this be madness?

Does that look like a Lumia to you? CNET

For an actor or a fashion designer, changing your name can help.

Just ask Ralph Lifshitz.

However, once a brand name has become vaguely known, there's a deep peril in rechristening. Which is why some might be troubled by the notion that the Microsoft Surface might soon be known as the Microsoft Lumia.

Why would Microsoft even consider such a thing? Is it because it wants the Nokia folks it bought to feel a little better about themselves? Is it because the Lumia name has a slightly more positive air than Surface?

Or might this rumor be bunkum?

It emerged from Evleaks. In this case, the whole rumor reads: "Microsoft is reportedly in the final stages of licensing the Nokia brand, for the purpose of calling the handsets 'Nokia by Microsoft.' Furthermore, say goodbye to Surface, and hello to Lumia, as the tablet lineup faces brand streamlining."

I'd struggle with being asked in a bar what my lovely phone is and answering: "Oh, it's a Nokia by Microsoft." It's not quite Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani, is it?

Microsoft, though, is confronted by a troubling set of choices. "Nokia" is a name far more readily associated with mobile than "Microsoft." Yet Evleaks emitted a rumor earlier this year that the Nokia brand would be eliminated entirely.

The most likely truth is that no decision has been made and various factions are attempting to influence new CEO Satya Nadella as to the beauty of their own ideas.

I contacted Microsoft to see whether the company might comment on any potential renaming. A spokesperson told me definitively: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."

It would be odd for a product that is avowedly different, like the Surface, to be suddenly given a name that already carries its own associations.

Ultimately, though, the purchase of Nokia had its own strategic reasons, ones that don't readily fit in neat branding buckets.

The problem is that, in the interim, it's hard for Microsoft to keep consumers' minds on its products when competitors with more-defined brands are doing very well.