Microsoft has been talking about the Metro design style and Windows 8 in the same breath since it formally unveiled the new OS at its BUILD conference last September.
Now it wants to throw the word Metro down the memory hole.
And the company’s flacks want you to think there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. A spokesperson told my ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley:
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.
Ha ha ha ha ... wait, they're serious?
I’ve seen laughably bad spin before, but this attempt deserves some sort of medal. No, Metro was not a “code name.” The term appears 81 times in the BUILD keynote address where Microsoft introduced Windows 8 last September (usually, but not exclusively, the term appears in the preferred construction “Metro style apps”).
At this year’s CES, I heard Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer open his remarks by referring to “our featured attraction tonight, our new Metro user interface.” You’ll find the word Metro used 27 times in that keynote presentation.
I cannot find a single public reference to Metro as a code name—not in those keynote transcripts, not in presentations or blog posts or developer documentation or interviews—nothing, anywhere. I have seen Microsoft managers talk about Metro’s history and refer to the term as one they’ve used internally for a long time. But it became official long ago:
- Until this week Microsoft had been encouraging developers to write Metro style apps.
- You can find 20 White papers for Metro style apps at MSDN.
- Microsoft sponsored a Windows Metro Style App Challenge for students.
- The App Developer Agreement, which was last updated on July 9, includes seven references to “Metro style apps.” Every app developer who is now scurrying to finish a Windows 8 app for the imminent public release of Windows 8 has to sign that agreement.
- In a post published just today on the Public Sector Developer Weblog, Microsoft announced a series of sessions it's presenting next week in Tampa, virtually all of which have "Metro style apps" in the name or description. (hat tip to Mary Jo Foley for catching this one)
So please cut the crap, Microsoft. Until very recently, "Metro style app" was the commercial name you were planning to use with Windows 8. And then you decided not to.
A decision like this, made at the same time that Windows 8 is released to manufacturing, is terribly late. I just checked the Windows Store in the Release Preview (I don’t have RTM code yet). A quick search turns up 40 apps, or just under 10% of the store’s current contents, that include Metro in their name or description.
Microsoft, you owe a more detailed explanation to those developers who have been working with you for nearly a year now. Lame public statements that are transparently untrue make the problem worse, not better. It's especially awkward coming on the heels of the terrible communication about Silverlight and its role in the Windows development ecosystem.
Yes, there’s plenty of time to scrub Windows 8 of any references to Metro. As far as I can tell, those are few and far between. But a decision like this, clearly made in haste at the last minute, risks undoing whatever confidence and goodwill Microsoft has earned for Windows 8 and pushing away developers who might be on the fence.