It seems like just yesterday that Windows “Metro” was everywhere. Wait. It actually was just yesterday (See our discussion on Metrofying the Enterprise, via Google Hangout, below).
After the rollout of Windows Phone and Windows 8, the clean graphic design known as “Metro” used in the interface was the centerpiece of Microsoft’s marketing of the platform. CEO Steve Ballmer is quoted at CES 2012 saying, “In 2012, what’s next? Metro, Metro, Metro…”
As of yesterday, Ballmer and Microsoft are now “stepping away” from the use of the term Metro. In fact, even during an event last week, Mr. Ballmer referred to it as the “Windows 8-style UI.” (Rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?)
According to a post from Ars Technica, the reason is simple… trademark problems. They report Microsoft’s “Legal and Corporate Affairs team sent out a memo banning the word "Metro." LCA's memo reportedly says that Microsoft has been threatened with legal action for infringing on "Metro" trademarks held by German retailer Metro AG.”
Of course, Microsoft will neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a trademark dust-up. Instead they have opted for this 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.”
Whether you believe this is a branding issue or a legal issue, it strikes me as one more misstep in the launching of what I think is a strong platform for both mobile and desktop. When Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 were announced, there were no real release dates (though since then, October 26th has been announced as the Windows 8 release). Additionally, Windows Phone 8 will not be backwards compatible with Windows Phone 7. Now “Metro, Metro, Metro…” is “Windows 8-Style, Windows 8...” you get the idea.
I know you’re probably saying this is not a big deal. You might even be saying that Windows 8-Style UI is better branded. But Microsoft needs some “fresh” language. Additionally, it would also mean normal people would actually know what the UI looks like. The “Metro” terminology hasn’t been around nearly long enough to define Windows 8 Style.
The rollout of these platforms is no doubt vital to the long-term success of Microsoft. So these missteps only make the hill steeper to climb. It also means that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will need to be all the more flawless when it does roll out.
I personally am rooting for the success of Microsoft’s next chapter, so please Mr. Ballmer, no more missteps.