Is 'Metro' now a banned word at Microsoft?

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?

TOPICS: Microsoft, Legal, Windows

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."


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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What?!

    What the heck! Really? :S
    • C'mon, .NET branding was one of the funniest periods in IT

      Metro had the potential to surpass it. Let's go MS;-)
      Richard Flude
      • Wouldn't you know it!

        They're taking away all our metro immersible fun. :(
      • Huh? .Net is synonymous with a quality programing language

        I'm not sure you're on the right track with that.
        • @challenger

          .Net is not a language, it's a runtime layer. Developers can use different programming languages targeting the .Net runtime.
          Shameer Mulji
          • Challenger is still right since...

            .NET is somewhat synonymous with quality programming language which is C#.

            I think this is what challenger meant.
          • .NET

   Oh heck, here's A to Z:
          • .Net and others

            Exactly, VB.Net, C#.Net, etc ..
          • Not anymore.

            Microsoft dropped the .NET moniker from Visual Basic and C# with Visual Studio 2005 already, and it all started with Windows Server 2003 (the name was changed last minute from Windows .NET Server). So, there's no VB.NET or C#.NET today. They are still ".NET powered" languages, of course.
          • whatever .Net is

            When Quickbooks switched from whatever they previously used to .Net, the size of the install doubled, and I couldn't discern any benefit whatsoever. I guess it just helped the programmers 'cause it didn't help me.
          • For about a year or two, everything new got branded ".NET"

            Windows Server 2003 was Windows .NET Server for a short while. I was at Microsoft talking to customers in those days. I kept saying "Everything.NET is just a fad - just watch, in a few years the .NET brand will just be used for the Framework". It turned out I was right.
          • So what's new?

            Since when has anyone in this industry paid attention to IT people who warn their employers what will happen if they proceed with their stupid ideas?
          • Go back farther...

            Microsoft has been hellbent on using "Active" (and "Active X") for 10-12+ years
            Mihi Nomen Est
        • remember .NET passport?

          Microsoft used the .NET branding all over their products, not just in their programming tools. It was useless as the term became meaningless.
          Apple also took a
        • remember .NET passports?

          For a short while, Microsoft used the .NET branding for all their online products (e.g. the useless .NET passport), not just for their development tools. As it was confusing it became meaningless.
          Apple also took a shot at this with .MAC, don't know if that ever took off (I suppose not, maybe in their development environments?)
          • Have Seen This Before...

            I'm long enough in the tooth to remember when IBM introduced SAA (Systems Application Architecture.) Was intended to be a set of cross platform software standards, comm services, interfaces, and design guidelines. Mostly hand waving around value of consistency across IBM platforms for developers.

            Once the marketing folks got their hands on it SAA became an uber-qualifier attached to a host of current and planned IBM products and service offerings. It became so meaningless and garbled that the joke in the industry was that it actually meant "Smile And Agree" - whenever the sales / marketing folks mentioned it to IT folks they'd simply smile and agree. Not idea why it was really critical but didn't want to seem ignorant.

            Many similar examples from others in the industry - Has been an effective roadmap tool to sell the value of continuing to buy the whole stack and soon to be released upgrades from a single vendor and/or their partners.
      • "Metro" = "Vista"

        No wonder they're running away.

        • oh ahh

          The clown strikes again with nothing. Troll harder you will get it someday.
          • Looks like the Caddy troll responded


        • No my friend...

          Metro is Longhorn 2.0... almost nothing to do with Vista...

          Vista was the ill timed response to .NET performance issues which left most of the Longhorn development on the drawing board.

          WinRT is what .NET was supposed to be and not just a Web Development Framework. Once Microsoft realized that the UI problem wasn't just JITing stuff, but rather creating wrappers to native code, WPF moved forward. In the transition, touch-based inputs emerged and the Silverlight and Silverlight for Windows Embedded experiments had to morph first into Silverlight for Windows Phone and then into Metro.