Microsoft kills off Metro — but, alas, the Start Screen lives on
- By Sebastian Anthony on
- August 3, 2012 at 7:34 am
Before you get too excited: No, the Start Screen is still there — but due to a trademark claim by Metro AG, a massive Eurasian retail chain, Microsoft can no longer call it the Metro Start Screen, and those bold, preschooler cubist apps can no longer be called Metro-style apps.
Microsoft debuted the Metro design language way back in 2006, with a typographically-rich reworking of the Zune website and desktop app. The first fully-fleshed-out implementation of Metro arrived with Windows Phone 7, in 2010. By far the most visible example of Metro, though, is the new Windows 8 Start Screen, which replaces the classic Start Menu.
Metro AG operates supermarkets, department stores, and — here’s the kicker — consumer electronics stores across Europe and Asia. Trademarks are broken down into categories: For example, Microsoft would be fine if Metro AG sold washing powder — but imagine the possible confusion if Metro AG starts selling Metro devices in its electronics stores. Or worse: if Microsoft sells Metro-powered devices in its own chain of Microsoft Stores.
Even the new Xbox 360 dashboard has been Metrofied
Moving forward, Microsoft has issued an internal memo requiring employees to refer to Metro as “Windows 8 style UI” — temporarily, anyway. Developers are being asked to use the phrase “New User Interface.” As for why Metro AG waited until now to complain to Microsoft’s legal team… who knows. The internal memo states that the changes are occurring because of “discussions with an important European partner,” but that’s it.
Curiously, despite a ton of marketing dollars and column inches being plowed into Metro, Microsoft is down-playing the change: “We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines,” a Microsoft spokesperson says. “As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.” This smells a bit fishy, considering Windows Phone 7 — with its Metro-style UI — has been on the market for two years. If Microsoft had planned to give Metro a “commercial name,” it would’ve already done so by now.
Microsoft is expected to announce a replacement name for Metro before the weekend. We should probably start a pool. Any bets? My money’s on “Courier,” with an outside bet on “Windows Live Mesh Tiles Plus.”
Read: More Windows 8 coverage