Seemingly out of nowhere, Microsoft has decided that they will be removing all references to “Metro” from the final release of Windows 8. Don’t get your hopes up Windows 8 naysayers, all they are doing is ditching the name. The sudden decision and the company’s attempt to spin it into a move they always planned on making create a situation that leaves many people confused about the logic here. While I can’t speak to sole causes, there are a couple things that have to factor in.
One of the more compelling reasons seems to be a conflict with Metro AG, a major German retail group. Microsoft would certainly be placed in legal trouble if they were to impinge on that trademark in such an obvious fashion. Given how important it is to encourage the maximum adoption rate, halting sales of Windows 8 to large parts of Europe while legal battles play out would probably be bad.
Let’s face it though, Microsoft has been known to throw a lot of time, effort, and money at situations like this in order to get their way. It doesn’t always work, as we can see by the need for a version of Windows to be sold without much of their integrated software in some markets, but it wouldn’t be fair to claim this was sheer timidity. More likely it is just the nudge needed to make this decision worth the marketing efforts.
While Windows 8 is incredibly well reviewed by the majority of users and the (formerly) Metro UI is proving more accommodating than people had expected, the most outspoken reviewers and critics have managed to build a negative sentiment associated with it. This is an opportunity to address that in a superficial way.
The complaints that the new interface is too tablet-centric and unattractive can generally be dismissed. People will get used to it, the transition is just jarring. Microsoft wasn’t about to drop that side of things. Critics of the closed system facilitated by the Windows Store have far more important concerns, but for the average consumer that will matter surprisingly little. Microsoft once again will not be changing that. Instead, the name goes away and we have to wait a week to find out what the new one will be. Call it a sort of slight branding reboot.
The scrambling by Microsoft to follow through on this decision is almost amusing to watch. Representatives have tried to explain that “Metro” was just a codename that never really would have been used. Considering how prominent references to “Metro Style” are in all of their documentation, presentations, interviews, blogs, MSDN white papers, etc., that just doesn’t really work.
Unfortunately this will also have an effect on developers as well. There are quite a few apps already available in the Store that refer to Metro and no small number of scattered advertisements that reference it. Everybody involved is going to have to carefully ensure that the word “Metro” is done away with. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised to hear horror stories about apps getting rejected because people missed the news.