Microsoft’s Metro user interface (UI) branding appears to have come off the rails – less than 12 weeks before the official launch of Windows 8.
According to ZDnet, a Microsoft spokesman said: “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”.
In other words, Metro is no more, long live…? ‘Windows 8 Style UI’ is the temporary new reference – Microsoft intend to switch to a permanent new name later this week.
Microsoft’s initial public explanation appears dubious – whilst they have indeed used code names before (e.g. Longhorn for Vista), these were code names prior to public announcement i.e. at the very earliest stages of design and development.
However, Microsoft have spent the last year publicly plugging Metro as the design name for the new Windows 8 ‘tiled’ user interface (and Windows Phone) – not the same thing at all. The Metro brand name continued through into the final Consumer Release Preview and has long since stuck in the public perception. We’re not seriously expected to believe that it was just a code name and Microsoft always planned to change it? Branding just doesn’t work like that.
A more likely explanation is provided by a leaked internal Microsoft memo that The Verge claim to have obtained – “discussions with an important European partner led to the decision to discontinue the use of the Metro branding for Windows 8 and other Microsoft products“.
No confirmation yet but the ‘partner’ is understood to be the German retail monolith Metro AG – the fifth largest retailer in the world, it also includes Media Markt and Saturn electronics stores which sell computers. Presumably they took exception to the Metro branding of Windows 8 computers that Metro AG would be selling – effectively a trademark dispute.
Facts aside the most interesting thing about this change is the timing. If a trademark dispute is truly the reason for this sudden switch of branding, why wait until the last minute? Metro has become synonymous with Windows 8 – it will a long time to completely erase it from the public lexicon.
The cynical might believe that the ‘European partner’ waited to learn how the Metro branding was perceived – and didn’t much like what they saw…
Metro has been (rightly, in my opinion) praised as a UI for tablets but has endured a bumpy and controversial ride as a UI for PCs. As I noted last week, the boss of Valve Software even called Windows 8 a catastrophe – and he is not alone in his thinking.
Metro had become a like it or loathe it brand, viewed as either a great selling point for Windows 8 – or a great selling point for Windows 7…
Whatever the rationale for the late abandonment of Metro, it will be interesting to see what Microsoft comes up with as a replacement.
Any suggestions for the new brand name?