Is 'Metro' now a banned word at Microsoft?

Summary:Why is Microsoft allegedly telling those inside and outside the company to stop playing up 'Metro' going forward when talking about the new wave of Microsoft products?

For the past year-plus, Microsoft has been playing up its Metro design language/philosophy as the crux around which its future product design revolves. But in the past few days, I've been hearing from a number of my contacts that Microsoft is trying to slow, if not halt, internal and external use of the term "Metro."

metroinfluences

What gives?

I've heard from a few sources that they believe Microsoft is stepping away from "Metro" because of a possible copyright dispute with some other entity. (No idea who/what entity that might be, if it were true.)

I asked Microsoft on this and received a no comment.

Update: A spokesperson is now saying the reason for this Metro de-emphasis is not related to any litigation. (I asked if it is related to any kind of copyright dispute that hasn't yet gone to litigation and was told there would be no further comment.)

The spokesperson added:

“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.”

(Hmm. I didn't realize "Metro-Style was ever "just" a codename.)

Some others I talked to this week who had heard talk about Microsoft de-emphasizing Metro said they believe Microsoft may be stepping back from the over-Metrofication of all terms and concepts because of potential user confusion. A decade ago, when Microsoft's marketing teams got more than a tad overzealous with .Net, branding, there was a subsequent purge during which products were renamed and marketing materials redone.

Many have noted that Microsoft's use of "Metro-Style" to refer to apps built using the WinRT application programming concept vs. apps thatlook Metro -like but aren't WinRT-based but still use elements of the Metro look and feel (like the new Office 2013 apps) has been confusing , to say the least.

Microsoft has used "Metro" to refer to the the new typography-centric, flatter, cleaner and more modern look and feel that is central to Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox Live, Office 2013, Visual Studio 2012 and other new and coming Microsoft products. Among the first Microsoft products to epitomize the Metro look and feel were Windows Media Center and Zune.

Whatever the reasons behind the attempt to pull back on "Metro," the edict comes at a tough time. Microsoft just released to manufacturing the Windows 8 bits on August 1 . Windows Phone 8 is due out this fall. Will training materials, marketing collateral, help files and other supporting matter need to expunge the word on last-minute notice?

Update: Tom Warren at The Verge said he has seen an internal Microsoft memo that indicates that "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. A replacement term is supposedly going to be suggested imminently, possibly by this weekend. 

 

Topics: Microsoft, Legal, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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