Is 'Metro' now a banned word at Microsoft?

Why is Microsoft allegedly telling those inside and outside the company to stop playing up "Metro" going forward when talking about the new wave of Microsoft products?

For the past year-plus, Microsoft has been playing up its Metro design language/philosophy as the crux around which its future product design revolves. But in the past few days, I've been hearing from a number of my contacts that Microsoft is trying to slow, if not halt, internal and external use of the term "Metro."

What gives?

I've heard from a few sources that they believe Microsoft is stepping away from "Metro" because of a possible copyright dispute with some other entity. (No idea who/what entity that might be, if it were true.)

I asked Microsoft on this and received a no comment.

Update: A spokesperson is now saying the reason for this Metro deemphasis 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." (Hmm. I didn't realize 'Metro style' was ever "just" a code name.)

Some other people I talked to this week who had heard talk about Microsoft de-emphasizing Metro said they believe the company may be stepping back from the over-Metrofication of all terms and concepts because of potential user confusion. A decade ago, when Microsoft's marketing teams got more than a tad overzealous with .Net branding, there was a subsequent purge during which products were renamed and marketing materials redone.

Many have noted that Microsoft's use of "Metro style" to refer to apps built using the WinRT application programming concept versus apps that aren't WinRT-based but still use elements of the Metro look and feel (like the new Office 2013 apps) has been confusing, to say the least.

Microsoft has used "Metro" to refer to the the new typography-centric, flatter, cleaner, and more modern look and feel that is central to Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox Live, Office 2013, Visual Studio 2012, and other new and coming Microsoft products. Among the first Microsoft products to epitomize the Metro look and feel were Windows Media Center and Zune.

Whatever the reasons behind the attempt to pull back on "Metro," the edict comes at a tough time. Microsoft just released to manufacturing the Windows 8 bits on August 1. Windows Phone 8 is due out this fall. Will training materials, marketing collateral, help files, and other supporting matter need to expunge the word on last-minute notice?

Update: 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.

This story originally appeared on ZDNet.

About the author

    Mary Jo Foley has been a tech journalist for almost 30 years. She is editor of ZDNet's "All About Microsoft" blog. She authored "Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era" and co-hosts the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT Network.

     

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