I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Microsoft made a major misstep with the whole Metro naming fiasco recently. It’s a novel opinion that you’ll surely not hear elsewhere, but let me explain why this is the case.
Assume for the moment that the move away from Metro as a term for Microsoft’s new interface was inevitable. The company obviously screwed up when they didn’t do their research into potential trademark infringements. Even so, the handling in the meantime has been completely unproductive and more than a little confusing. Do they really expect to put the best foot forward with Windows 8 when reviewers don’t even know what the name of the thing they’re reviewing is?
There are two major theories going around right now that indicate where the renaming might settle. One school of thought, based on comments from Microsoft’s spur of the moment damage control efforts, is simply “Windows 8”.
Naturally, that fits well with the operating system as a whole. It creates a situation that Microsoft can’t expect to find pleasant moving forward, though. Think about how much different marketing efforts would have to be if suddenly a “Windows 8 app” was only available through the Windows Store while everybody else was stuck selling “apps that run in Windows 8”. It’s a subtle distinction, but it would impose a sort of hierarchy of perception that could turn off any number of Windows supporters.
The other big naming guess is “Modern UI”. It’s simple, it makes sense, and it has been used from time to time to describe parts of the system even when Metro was still on the approved list of Windows material. Unfortunately, it still creates an implicit subclass of applications.
If you are going to call things sold through the Microsoft Store “Modern Apps” or “Modern UI Apps”, then what are the applications that aren’t a part of this? Desktop apps is the most neutral term that comes to mind, but there’s a distinct difference when you compare “Modern” and “Desktop”.
This wouldn’t even be too big a deal if only Microsoft were doing a better job of figuring things out in a timely manner. Metro was the word that everybody recognized with regard to Windows 8. Even people who don’t follow the news about this new operating system still generally know that Metro means “that weird new blocky interface for tablets”. Rather than openly addressing this, Microsoft is choosing to pretend that Metro was never an important or official term for them while offering no sensible alternatives.
This is all happening right as the RTM build is finally shipping out to manufacturers. Any number of people will likely notice at some point that there are slips left scattered around. This could have been turned into an opportunity to emphasize the ongoing viability of desktop apps and win over skeptics. Instead, all they’ve managed to do is alienate customers and developers. I don’t claim that changing from Metro to Modern will be the death of the project, but wouldn’t it make more sense to act cautiously?