Microsoft should come clean about why it's dropping the Windows 8 Metro name

Microsoft has long used the term "Metro" for its newest Windows interfaces, first for Windows Phone 7, and after that for Windows 8. Now it's dropping that name, and the explanation for it makes little sense. Microsoft should come clean about why it's dropping the name.

The Verge first reported that Microsoft has begun advising developers that it should no longer use the term Metro for apps written for the Windows Phone and Windows 8 interfaces. The Verge followed up that report with what it says is an internal Microsoft memo explaining that "discussions with an important European partner" led to the decision. The memo also said that the Windows team was "working on a replacement term" for Metro.

PC World notes that "the other company is believed to be Metro AG, the German retail giant." Apparently, a trademark dispute may be involved.

Microsoft claims, though, that Metro was never intended to be the term used for the Windows 8 and Windows Phone tiled interface, and said in a statement:

"We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names."

This simply isn't believable. Microsoft has been using the term for nearly a year, and has used it in countless ways and places, with no indication it's only a code name. Ed Bott points out dozens of white papers, developer communications, student contests, and even the Microsoft developer agreement amended in July that uses the term. And that's just the short list. There's far more than that. Up until now, Microsoft has used all its might to get people to use the term Metro as the description of the Windows 8 and Windows Phone main user interface.

And Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that:

When Stephen Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, first posted about the new UI in the "Building Windows 8" on Aug. 31, he used "Metro" 14 times alone or as an adjective such as in "Metro style," "Metro experience," and "Metro world." Sinofsky never mentioned that Metro was a code name, or enclosed it in quotation marks to mark it as a possible placeholder.

There's certainly nothing wrong with Microsoft changing the name of its new user interface, and if that's a result of a trademark dispute, it won't be the first time a company has been forced to change a name. But there is something wrong with not coming clean about the reason for the name change, and Microsoft should tell the truth about it. Windows 8 and Windows Phone need plenty of help, and this isn't the way to get it.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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