The tech blogs may be praising Microsoft’s name for its new operating system, but here in branding land we’re underwhelmed.

“Windows 7” is a retreat into safe, bland territory a la “Windows 2” and “Windows 3.1.” And while Microsoft claims “Windows 7” reflects a return to “simplicity” and is not a version number, you can bet most casual users will think it is (and may wonder what happened to Windows 4-6).

The name is so weak that it’s almost as if Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to notice it—as if they can slip a new operating system into the market that sorta kinda reminds you of their pre-Vista versions but is really better, because hey, it’s a higher number than we’ve had before.

As an operating system, Vista has been universally panned. So certainly Microsoft was right to dump the Vista brand name for its next major release. But instead of regressing into a been-there, done-that naming style, they should have given their next product such a kick-ass name that the passive-sounding Vista would be a distant memory.

More importantly, they should have tied the name to a differentiating brand promise, such as, oh, I don’t know, maybe the transformative user experience made possible through its multitouch technology?

Recently, Microsoft has shown some branding moxie with its “I’m a PC” campaign, which hits back effectively (albeit belatedly) at Apple’s long-running “Mac vs. PC” commercials. So it’s disappointing to see such reticence on the naming side of their branding initiatives.

As a PC user, I can only hope that Windows 7, the operating system, will far outshine its uninspired brand name.