By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 04, 2012 02:05 PM EDT
Microsoft will ditch the "Metro" moniker it has been using for over a year to describe its clean, tile-based user interface found in both Windows 8 and Windows RT, the company confirmed Friday, Aug. 3.
"We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines," a spokeswoman for Microsoft told ComputerWorld in an e=mailed statement. "As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we use our commercial names."
Microsoft's confirmation follows an exclusive report by The Verge on Thursday, Aug. 2, claiming a Microsoft internal memo explained employees that the change was a result of "discussions with an important European partner" that forced the company to "discontinue the use" of the Metro brand. The memo added that a replacement for Metro will be introduced this week. Until then, Microsoft employees should use the phrase "Windows 8 style UI." Other reports also surfaced online stating that Microsoft had sent a similar notification to third-party developers.
"This isn't a huge deal for Microsoft, more of an embarrassment, but it is an unneeded distraction to what they need to be getting done," Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead told ComputerWorld. "One of the first rules I learned as a junior product manager was to only apply non-trademarked names to my products."
If Microsoft planned all along to use "Metro" just as a code name, it failed to communicate this plan to developers, users, and the press. Microsoft's head of Windows and Windows Live Division Stephen Sinofsky first posted about the new user interface in the "Building Windows 8" post on Aug. 31, 2011. He used the word "Metro" a total of 14 times, but not once did he mention that it was a code name. According to Moorhead, that was a major blunder. "I believe it will take years to leach 'Metro' out of the industry nomenclature," he said.
Several reports suggested that German conglomerate Metro AG, the world's fifth-largest retailer, was behind Microsoft's move to dump the "Metro" moniker. This has not been confirmed, however, and a spokesman for Metro AG declined to discuss the matter. "We generally do not comment on market rumors," said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, Microsoft said that litigation did not prompt the change, but declined to offer any details or answer further questions. The company also refused to name the "important Microsoft partner" mentioned in the internal memo.
On the other hand, Moorhead believes this change will benefit Microsoft, as it will allow the company to build on the popularity of the Windows brand. "Any effort or dollars invested in the Metro brand is taken away from the Windows brand," said the analyst. "Fortunately for Microsoft, they build awareness, familiarity, and in some cases even preference for a 'Windows UI.'"
Microsoft announced on Wednesday, Aug. 1, that Windows 8 had reached the RTM (release to manufacturing) milestone, which means the new software will reach developers, IT professionals, and corporations in less than two weeks. Windows 8 goes on sale on Oct. 26, along with Windows 8- and Windows RT-powered PCs and tablets.
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