Friday, 03 August 2012 14:36

Microsoft Is Ditching the Metro Name And Branding; Why Now?

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Microsoft has announced that they are getting rid of the Metro name for the Windows 8 “start screen”.  The sudden shift on the eve of the launch (the final version has been released to OEM partners and other manufacturers) is unusual and Microsoft’s answers for this change are not adding up. The original term Metro can be dated back to the UI used for the Zune players and in particular the ZuneHD. This style of slimmed down icon-free user interface that many people liked about the now discarded media player. After receiving good feedback on the Zune (and with many comments asking for a “Zune Phone”) Microsoft pushed some elements of the Zune UI into their Windows Phone product.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the idea did not take off quite as well as they hoped. iOS and Android were too firmly entrenched. Still, the term Metro and Metro Style were commonly used to describe the theme of Windows Phone. This usage has continued all the way through the development of Windows 8, so suddenly changing this is very unusual (especially given that they have been pushing “Metro” as the next big thing).

When asked, Microsoft responded with an answer that was anything but. They simply stated that “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."

When you are are within three months of launch; the time for code names is long past. Most are not buying the “Code name” statement and are digging for other answers. One that has caught the public’s imagination is the potential of copyright or trademark infringement.  It is no wonder that this was one of the first thoughts as the news is full of articles about the current Samsung V Apple trial. However, it is very unlikely that someone is trying to sue Microsoft for infringement considering the length of time that the name has been in use.  

The Verge has information claiming that Microsoft made the decision after discussions with a key European partner. There is no word on who the partner is or what Microsoft will be calling Metro moving forward, but we have a feeling that there might be more to this story than what we are seeing right now. We asked around and got some elusive yet interesting answers, all of which seem to point to the term Metro being tied to bad press and or consumer response.  If this is true, it would not be the first time a company changed the branding or name of the product to avoid being linked to something with a bad public or consumer image.

With Windows 8 due out in less than 90 days, we wonder what Microsoft will come up with to replace the term and if it will make any difference to how consumers and the market sees Windows 8 and the new “style”. After all, Shakespeare said it best when he said “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” the same can be applied to the interface Microsoft is pushing.

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