Microsoft may use 'Kumo' name for more than search

A trademark application Microsoft filed earlier this month suggests the company may use the "Kumo" name for more than just its search engine.

Microsoft has been rumored for some time to be renaming its Live Search "Kumo" in 2009. However, a trademark application the company filed this month suggests Microsoft may use the name for more than just its search engine.

According to the application, filed on Dec. 4, Microsoft wants to trademark Kumo for a host of software and services beyond a search engine, including advertising and telecommunications services, education, training, entertainment, and the design and development of computer hardware and services.

According to Whois.Net, Microsoft has registered the kumo.com domain, and through CSC, a company that manages domain names for corporations, also has registered related domains that indicate the Kumo name could be used for other services. Those domains include: www.kumosearch.com, www.kumopics.com, www.kumowiki.com, www.kumogroups.com and www.kumotravel.com.

Kumo is a Japanese word that can be used to mean "cloud," "ceiling" or "sea spider," among other things, according to an online Japanese-to-English translation service.

The trademark application and various domain registrations could mean Microsoft plans to drop the Windows Live and Live Search brands, which are fairly new in and of themselves. Microsoft only gave its online services the "Windows Live" moniker at the end of 2005, later dropping the "Windows" for its search engine but keeping it for other services and Web-based client applications.

However, Matt Rosoff, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that it is unlikely Microsoft would drop the Windows Live brand entirely, since the Windows Live-branded services and client applications, such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail, are part of the Windows client group at the company.

"It would be weird to me that they would rename everything," he said. "They're probably going to keep the Windows Live brand around and make it specifically for things that Microsoft think can improve Windows or take Windows-like functionality online -- those thick clients that connect to services."

Still, for its search engine, Kumo makes sense, Rosoff said. And while another name change might be confusing to some who already are aware of Microsoft's search engine, it actually might help the company because the bulk of average Web users still don't even know about Microsoft Live Search, he said.

"Search has had a lot of branding problems -- that's one reason people aren't even aware Microsoft has a search engine, and if they are they're not aware of where to find it," Rosoff said. Renaming it yet again "won't hurt them and maybe help them," he said.

Microsoft confirmed through its public relations firm Tuesday that it has trademarked the Kumo name, but would not disclose anything further about its plans to use it.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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