'Metro' to disappear as a term in the Windows Phone canon?

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ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley has reported on a curious case of Microsoft making an attempt to deemphasise the Metro name. Anyone who has been following Windows Phone and Windows 8 will know that Metro is the name given to the new design style that encompasses the typography, iconography, and tiled interface that we have all become familiar with.

According to Mary's source, the Metro name was only ever intended to be used as an internal codename.

According to her report:
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.”

The story was also updated with:

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.

If, and I emphasise if, Microsoft is changing the Metro name for fear of user confusion, then please colour me a bright shade of frustrated.

Whatever the design language is called, normal end users will be unconcerned what it is called and it will not form part of their user experience. However, to journalists, bloggers and industry experts, the Metro name has become a known brand with which there is a compelling word with which to evangelise and educate others.

A similar situation happened with the Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh update. Internally, it was codenamed Tango, and the press knew this and referred to it as such. In Microsoft's attempt to control the media message it created a very messy situation where the update was literally being referred to as "the update formally known as Tango".

Of course, Microsoft has the right to call its releases whatever it sees fit. However, I feel that not being flexible enough to go along with the names that its commentators have adopted lacks a certain foresight.

If the change of the Metro UI name is another case of Microsoft tidying up its trademarks, then it will lead to the same situation as before, where those writing about Windows Phone are going to have to go through a phase of using statements like "the user interface pattern we used to call Metro". It will be messy and make for stilted reading.

There is the possibility that there is still a litigious dimension to this. If so, this is Microsoft - surely it can afford to do what it has to do to defend the Metro brand?

Source / Credit: ZDNet