Cleaning up Microsoft’s Metro mess

Cleaning up Microsoft’s Metro mess

Summary: Microsoft's explanation that Metro was a "code name" is laughably bad spin. The company's sudden decision to throw the term down the memory hole is strange, and developers deserve a full, honest explanation of the reasons behind the change.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows

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:

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.

Topics: Microsoft, Windows

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  • What's the Point

    Ed old Buddy "Who Cares"? They changed their mind.
    • RE: "Who Cares"

      People, particularly Microsoft's business partners, care because this is a huge change on a major platform very close to its release.

      And people care because it's just so clearly a lie. Metro was never a code term. It was the proper name, and we all know it. So when Microsoft pumps out this baloney, they're doing two things:

      1. They're showing their lack of confidence in their own product - a very, very bad thing to do right before its release.

      2. They're lying, quite openly, to their customers, their business partners and to the entire tech industry. Only a fool would believe this PR stunt, and thus Microsoft is betting that we're all stupid enough to believe it.

      As a tablet interface, there's nothing inherently wrong with Metro. It's sleek, relatively good looking, and easy to use. But the problem, as many people have said, is that Metro is a tablet interface which is being forced onto a desktop experience.

      The answer is so blindly simple - simply present the user an option to turn Metro ON/OFF. Make it a simple control panel option, and let us determine the user interface that we want to use.

      What's so hard about that?
      • Confidence in the Product

        I don't think they're talking about the product. They're talking about the name they give it. Rumors elsewhere are that Germany's Metro AG owns the name, and they were afraid of copyright issues. Whichever the official reason, it's not that suddenly the style they've been promoting is bad, it's just that you can't call it Metro anymore. At least if you work for Microsoft, it appears.
        • Funny you say that

          Microsoft could care less about copywrites, IP, or anything for that matter, unless they own it. Microsoft has a long and well documented past of copywrite and IP abuse.
          Jumpin Jack Flash
          • And as proof, Jumpin Jack Flash offers this story

            As proof that Microsoft doesn't care about any of this, Jumpin Jack Flash offers us a story about Microsoft dropping a name when it turns out to be trademarked by another company.

            Wait. What?

            Contrast this "lack of respect" with Apple where their defense for stealing patents is:
            "Well, we couldn't agree on a price so we just went ahead and used it without paying."
            "We bought the rights to the name 'iPad' in other parts of the world so we just went ahead and used the name in China, even after the rightful owner asked us not to."
            "Hey, how dare Samsung steals the smartphone designs from us that we stole from Sony?"

            And finally, I offer you the money quote:
            "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." - Steve Jobs, ex CEO of Apple
          • hmmmm....

            really don't think we want to get into stealing ip: ms vs apple. ms history is much much longer and vast.
          • Funny you say that

            Apple could care less about copywrites, IP, or anything for that matter, unless they own it. Apple has a long and well documented past of copywrite and IP abuse.

            Just look at their attitude on the name iPhone, which someone else had copywrited -

            "We're Apple, and you don't matter as much as we do".
            William Farrel
          • Thanks for the nonsequitur

        • Mrosoft Screwed the pooch

          Bingo, I think has to do legal copyright wrangling over who owns the word Metro. Somebody screwed the pooh at Microsoft.
        • Microsoft Screw up

          Bingo, I think has to do legal copyright wrangling over who owns the word Metro. Somebody screwed up at Microsoft.
        • Plenty of things named Metro in the world

          I'm not a lawyer, just an idiot who can look up stuff on wikipedia:

          Metro, a department store chain based in Singapore
          Metro, a Greek supermarket chain
          MetroCentre, largest indoor shopping mall in the European Union
          METRO Foods Trading, retailer in Cyprus
          Metro Inc., a Canadian supermarket chain
          Metro Recordings, the UK music label
          Metro Broadcast Corporation in Hong Kong
          Metro TV in Indonesia
          Metro FM radio in South Africa
          Metro Radio in the UK
          Metro Newspapers Co. in Calif.
          Metro International media company in Sweden
          Metro newspaper of Belgium
          Metro newspaper of the UK
          Metro newspaper of Zimbabwe
          Metro the Mexican wrestler
          Metro F.C. of New Zealand

          Other examples of companies that haven't freaked out:

          Delta Airlines
          Delta pen manufacturer
          Delta Cafés, a Portuguese coffee roasting and coffee packaging company
          Delta Electricity, an Australian power generation company
          Delta Electronics, a power supplies and brushless fans manufacturer
          Delta Faucet Company, a plumbing fixtures company
          Delta Galil Industries, an Israeli textile company
          Delta Holding, a Serbian import-export, banking, insurance and retail corporation
          Delta Hotels, a Canadian hotel chain
          Delta Machinery, a stationary power tools and equipment company
          Delta Motor Corporation, a South African car manufacturer owned by General Motors

          Target is a big retailer in the U.S. There's also a big retail company in Australia called Target and a big retail company in Canada called Target and none are related.

          Not buying the Fraidy Cat Trademark defense.
          • Depends on the usage of it

            You're list is fine, except for one thing -
            None of those are the same as the other. No one will confuse Delta Airlines with Delta faucets.
            You notice their isn't 2 Delta Faucets, or a Dell-ta Faucet?

            But if there is a metro interface someplace else that is copywrited, then there will be confusion for sure.
            William Farrel
          • Who is going to mix up pixels with a retail store?

            That's the point. You have three Targets doing pretty much the same thing and they all appear to be OK with it. Confusing Metro the OS, or whatever it is, with Metro AG is ridiculous. Apple records had Apple computer in court for decades and Apple computer basically said - screw you. Ultimately they ended up working together. I can't believe MS was scared of a potential lawsuit. If that's really the reason, and no one in the entire company thought about this ahead of time, that's 10 billion times more ridiculous than any brand confusion.
          • Who is going to mix up pixels with a retail store?

            Probably the same kind of illiterate nitwits who couldn't tell the difference between a luxury car brand (Lexus) and a legal research service (Lexis).

            Keep in mind that THOSE particular illiterate nitwits were the legal department at Lexus' parent company Toyota.
          • You don't know what you're talking about

            Target in Canada is the same Target as in the US. Target US is coming to Canada to buy up the defunct Zellers brand.

            Next thing you'll be saying is that Best Buy in Canada isn't the same as Best Buy in the US.... (well, it isn't doing as badly as in the US, so that's only partially true, but they are the same company)
          • Same company but different

            Target Canada, and Best Buy Canada are divisions of the parent companies in the US. They are different companies
          • Parent Companies

            Different companies but same parent . They won't be suing themselves over copyright. I think taht was the point being made.
          • Different countries , differenet laws

            Windows market is going to sell to 150 countries, each with different laws. They better find a name which includes Microsoft in it.
          • Yeah I dont think anyone could claim Metro as a brand name

            Don't forget the loveable 80s Austin Metro
          • The only thing different from other Metro companies in that list is

            Microsoft is a global company, and that could put them at risk at multiple places.
            Ram U