It's over two years since Microsoft introduced the name "Metro" but it has now suddenly decided to drop it and is asking developers to refer to "New User Interface" until it comes up with an alternative.
Although Microsoft hasn't made any official statement about its intention to drop the name, the breaking news is that it is asking developers and others within the company to refrain from using it and the reason appears to be to do with trademark infringement.
Microsoft came up with "Metro" as the name for the Windows Phone 7 user interface back in July 2010. So it seems a bit strange that it has taken until now for "one of its European partners", speculated by The Verge to be the German company Metro AG, to react with sufficient pressure to get Microsoft to attempt to re-write history.
Mary Jo Foley quotes a spokesperson as saying:
“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.”
and comments that she never thought it was a code name.
In the context of Windows 8, Metro has become more than a reference to the interface design that is characterized by specific fonts and the flat, boxy look that some describe a smart and modern. We have all started to refer to "Metro apps" as a shorthand to mean Win RT apps - and now it seems we have to stop.
This is once again an example of Microsoft not really taking care of its developers. Just consider the amount of documentation and the help files that will have to be modified to expunge the word "Metro".
When you consider the situation in a little more depth the whole thing sounds a little strange. What we have is an example of an operating system being front-lined by a "style". That is WinRT is the technical guts of the system and strictly speaking it is the innovation that we should all be focuses on. Yet it is "Metro Style" that made the headlines and named the apps. Over time even hardened developers have come to call their programs Metro Apps rather than WinRT apps. How long before Microsoft decides that WinRT is a codename and we all have to learn another way to refer to apps that run under the new Windows 8 subsystem.
Given that there isn't a replacement name as yet, and one might be announced this weekend, it doesn't sound well prepared. As mentioned earlier, until the announcement we have to refer to "Windows 8 New User Interface" and hence "Windows 8 New User Interface apps". Yuk! Microsoft has long had a reputation for inventing really good code names and then replacing them by boring product names - consider Avalon and WPF for example.
It all adds to the madness of Windows 8 and WP8 - do you get the impression that with Metro Microsoft has lost it's way in the subway?
It tends to confirm the overall impression that Windows 8 is a rush job with its strategy and technical road map being worked out on the fly. Almost everything to do with Windows 8 has been announced at the last minute, with a lot of confusion about what is and what is not happening. If you were charitable you might call it "Agile". If you were less charitable you might regard it as a panic.
So what will the new name be?
Feel free to offer suggestions!
Watch this space - an update as soon as we know.