What are we calling Windows 8 this week?

If Microsoft can't settle on consistent naming for Windows 8 and its associated technologies, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Written by Mary Branscombe, Contributor

I'll admit it — I'm confused now.

It was OK at first. Even when everyone else was confused by them, WinRT, Windows RT, Metro style apps, Metro style and Windows 8 all used to make sense, and I could tell you what each of them was:

  • Windows 8 The x86/64 version of the next release of Windows that can run both familiar desktop apps and the new Metro style apps that are written for the WinRT runtime.
  • Windows RT The ARM version of the next release of Windows that can run the new Metro style apps written for the WinRT runtime and only those desktop apps supplied by Microsoft — such as Office, Explorer, Internet Explorer and a cloud-management client that offers some remote-management features to compensate for the inability of Windows RT machines to join a domain.
  • WinRT The new Windows runtime for apps that can run on x86/64 or ARM devices and can be written in C#, C++ or HTML5/CSS/JavaScript.
  • Metro style apps The annoyingly-unhyphenated Microsoft term for WinRT apps.
  • Metro style The clean, minimum-chrome, authentically digital, typography-first design language and principles that evolved from Zune to Windows Phone and the Zune Windows software to Xbox to Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 to Office 2013. Unlike Metro style apps, a program that uses Metro style could be an x86/64 program running on the Windows desktop, or even a web page. The new Azure interface and the Windows Server 2012 Server Manager tool have the Metro style.
  • Modern The somewhat presumptuous theme for the Windows 8 reimagining. The Metro Start screen is the modern shell, WinRT is modern programming, ARM chips are modern processors, Office 2013 is modern Office.

But first Metro style apps started getting called Windows Runtime-based apps on MSDN. Then the new Metro OneNote got called first OneNote MX as a codename and then OneNote for Windows 8. Now the help page explaining when you can and can't get offline access with the new Outlook Web App refers to what I assume are Windows RT devices as Windows 8 tablets — even though there will be Windows RT devices that are lightweight clamshell notebooks with touchscreens and almost every Windows RT tablet will come with an optional keyboard.

I really do think Windows 8 is the best of both worlds. The power of a Core i5 and background compatibility if you need it, the light weight and long battery life of an ARM tablet with smartphone-style apps if you don't, and both giving you Office, Explorer and Internet Explorer on both versions.

I use Windows 8 with a keyboard all day and I'm just as likely to press the Windows button on the keyboard or mouse into the corner for the Charms as I am to swipe my touchscreen, so I really don't buy the whole "bad without a touchscreen" Luddite view. I don't use many Metro apps yet, apart from Wordament, but I'm impressed by OneNote for Windows 8 — whatever you call it.

I'm going to use Windows on a notebook and a tablet and a media PC in the lounge and on a wall screen. But there are obvious differences between the different modes and versions of Windows 8 that need to be explained clearly. This revolving door of terminology isn't helping.

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