Cleaning up Microsoft’s Metro mess

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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