Ballmer's biggest blunder ever? The mis-naming of Metro

Ballmer's biggest blunder ever? The mis-naming of Metro

Summary: Under Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has become a stagnant technology company, but until the Metro trademark fiasco I didn't think Ballmer was an incompetent business manager.

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NotMetro
This is Not Windows 8 "Metro" anymore.

I have a low opinion of Microsoft, but even I never saw Microsoft under Ballmer making such a basic blunder as not checking out the trademark for Metro, the most distinctive name attached to Windows 8. Just how dumb is Ballmer?

Seriously. This is business 101. Oh, Microsoft is claiming now that the “Metro de-emphasis is not related to any litigation,” but they're refusing to answer on questions about the Windows 8 Metro name conflicting with the German company name Metro AG.  Metro AG isn't talking either. Interesting, huh?

In addition, Microsoft, after years of pushing the Metro brand, is now claiming that Metro was always just a code name. Really? That's news to me; Mary Jo Foley, ZDNet's ace Microsoft reporter; and anyone else who's paid any attention whatsoever to Windows 8.

So here we are, on August 1st, Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing, and the very next day they run away from the brand name they've been building around it for ages. Great timing guys. Could they have picked a worse time to have to come up with a new name for Windows 8's interface?

How, how in the world can any company, any CEO, be so dumb as to get to this point without making sure that they don't have such a vital brand-name trademarked and legally checked out nine ways from Sunday?  I really don't understand it.

The signs had been there for a while that Ballmer was the wrong choice for Microsoft. Before this, there was Ballmer's Vista failure; the total lack of Microsoft's growth under Ballmer; over-paying for Skype, and Microsoft's failure to catch the smartphone and tablet markets when they took off. It wouldn't be easy to fire Ballmer, still major Microsoft stock owners have talked about booting him out the door, and this will only give them more reason to boot him out the door.

I mean it's bad enough that Windows 8 is desktop crapware  pretending to be a new and improved operating system. But, for all of Ballmer's “Developers! Developers! Developers!” braying we've always known he was a manager and not a tech guy. That's why even Microsoft fanboys are beginning to back off encouraging people to move to Windows 8.

Come on though, trademarks? Branding? This is the kind of thing that any executive worth his pay should be on top of. For a CEO and his staff to totally blow such a fundamental business step is reason enough to throw then out of the executive suite and into the unemployment line.

Related Stories:

Cleaning up Microsoft’s Metro mess

Is 'Metro' now a banned word at Microsoft?

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Microsoft hits RTM milestone with Windows 8

Five ways to skip Windows 8

Topics: Microsoft, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, PCs, Tech Industry, Windows

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172 comments
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  • Trademarks only apply to companies engaged in similar

    markets (thus the word Trade in trademark). Metro AG is a department store. They're not going to be able to make any sort of trademark case stick. At least in the U.S.
    baggins_z
    • re: Trademarks only apply to companies engaged in similar markets

      Canada has a chain of supermarkets called "Metro," as well.
      Unlikely anyone is going to confuse the two.
      blatanville
      • Who would replace Ballmer if he goes?

        Nobody. That is. You think Ballmer is doing a not so good job, just watch Microsoft becoming the next Yahoo! if Ballmer leaves the CEO post. Or the next HP, or the next ... well, you get the idea. Those companies had been changing CEOs often lately because infuriated pundits thought just anybody could do a better job. Ehh? Did not work, sorry.
        markbn
      • Steven, your level of bias and/or ignorance is incredible

        Microsoft fails Business 101 for not checking trademarks. OK I'll buy that. But where were you when Apple:

        1. Got sued (and lost) to Apple Records (the Beatles label)
        2. Had to pay off Cisco because iOS was already in use as the name of Cisco's oerating system on its network devices
        3. Had to pay off another company (I think it was Toshiba?) who already had a device on the market called an iPad (it was a hand held PDA like device used for doing bar code scanning for inventory purposes).

        So Apple had to pay off another company because the very name of the company was an infringement and their biggest product ever (iOS on which both the iPhone and iPad run) was an infringement on Cisco while their market dominating tablet (iPad) was also an infringement.

        Now, people who like the devices say "who cares, it's just a name". And they are correct to do so. If you like your iPad there is no reason you should care about the behind the scenes that went on over the name. My question though, is why is it you feel that Microsoft must be treated differently? The only reason I can see is that you don't like them to begin with and are looking for opportunities to bash them.

        Personally I don't like the UI formerly known as Metro so when I saw the headlines I was hopeful it meant MS was going to offer a "classic" mode for the Windows 8 UI. Now that I see it's just a name change, I'm back to "who cares what the name is" mode.

        Love it, hate it, or be indifferent based on it's merits. But this clearly anti-Microsoft bias campaign is just stupid.
        cornpie
        • And, Steven, where were you when Lindows ...

          ... was forced to change their name to Linspire. Microsoft was on the other side of this one (and won).
          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Steven, your level of bias and/or ignorance is incredible

        Microsoft fails Business 101 for not checking trademarks. OK I'll buy that. But where were you when Apple:

        1. Got sued (and lost) to Apple Records (the Beatles label)
        2. Had to pay off Cisco because iOS was already in use as the name of Cisco's oerating system on its network devices
        3. Had to pay off another company (I think it was Toshiba?) who already had a device on the market called an iPad (it was a hand held PDA like device used for doing bar code scanning for inventory purposes).

        So Apple had to pay off another company because the very name of the company was an infringement and their biggest product ever (iOS on which both the iPhone and iPad run) was an infringement on Cisco while their market dominating tablet (iPad) was also an infringement.

        Now, people who like the devices say "who cares, it's just a name". And they are correct to do so. If you like your iPad there is no reason you should care about the behind the scenes that went on over the name. My question though, is why is it you feel that Microsoft must be treated differently? The only reason I can see is that you don't like them to begin with and are looking for opportunities to bash them.

        Personally I don't like the UI formerly known as Metro so when I saw the headlines I was hopeful it meant MS was going to offer a "classic" mode for the Windows 8 UI. Now that I see it's just a name change, I'm back to "who cares what the name is" mode.

        Love it, hate it, or be indifferent based on it's merits. But this clearly anti-Microsoft bias campaign is just stupid.
        cornpie
    • It's more likely to protect developers, and the ecosystem...

      As more devs name their apps Metro-this and Metro-that, it could open them up to potential problems. This could be especially true if they make apps that cross into what metro AG does. I don't think the problem lies in Microsoft using this term for their UI design style guide.

      This, of course, is just speculation on my part, but It's probably a little better than what SJVN is spewing. Let's try collecting facts before we call Ballmer incompetent, shall we. This is why I typically don't read posts from SJVN.
      NOEEM
    • I don't think they're doing it for trademark purposes

      Baggins is entirely correct that MetroAG has zero luck winning in any trademark case because nobody will confuse a visual element in an Operating System with a Department Store.

      I think the reason more than anything should be that they've been stressing on all the differences between Windows 7 & 8, especially using the word Metro, and now there's backlash as it's too extreme of a change. Instead of focusing on visually how it's changed, they need to focus more on how it simplifies XYZ and why someone on Windows 7 who is perfectly content should upgrade. I don't think Metro, even if you enjoy the new look, is enough to motivate people to make the switch. I hope their focus changes in addition to the name.
      lilbubba
    • Perhaps the trademark is owned by...

      a different German company.

      http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4009:8hmhgm.5.3
      msalzberg
  • Ballmer's biggest blunder ever? The mis-naming of Metro

    Microsoft this one is all on your.

    Popcorn ready....
    RickLively
  • No, really!?

    "I have a low opinion of Microsoft..."

    So, why are you constantly writing about them? For something you have a low opinion of (and often misinformed and misguided), you sure seem to like writing about them. I thought this was a Linux and OSS blog?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Top corner...

      Topic: Microsoft

      for Between the Lines
      RickLively
      • whoops

        Saw SJVN and thought Open Source Blog. My sentiment still stands.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Walks like a penguin.. talks like a penguin.. smells like a penguin...

        SJVN is known for one thing, Rick.. hiding behind one of his colleagues' bylines is hardly going to change that.
        daftkey
        • Daftkey .......Sounds more like you should ment Loverock Davidson.

          Walks like a Loverock...... talks like a Loverock..and really does smel like a Loverock...

          Loverock Davidson is known for one thing, FUD.. hiding behind one of his colleagues' "Windoze Posters" zdnet is hardly going to change that.
          Over and Out
          • Very clever...

            ...came up with that one yourself, did you?
            daftkey
          • Why can't you be clever, daffy?

            You really meant Loverock and you know it.

            After all, he's your idiot not ours.
            CaviarBlack
          • He writes about them because

            1 - he has nothing else to write about
            2 - he hates Microsoft so much that he is seeing a psychiatrist
            3 - hated Bill Gates ever since he kicked sand in his face down at the beach
            4 - he's a hack
            5 - it's the year of Linux again
            Blogsworth
          • Good for him

            I'm glad he's getting on your nerves. That's a good thing, ya know.

            ;)
            CaviarBlack
          • Look who has

            Crawled out from beneath a rock
            Blogsworth