Microsoft Forced to Rename Metro After a Failure of Due Diligence

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Just as Microsoft finished Windows 8 and sent it to manufacturing, the company got a rude surprise: it could not claim any rights to the brand name because a German firm, Metro AG, owned it.

That must have left a lot of people in Microsoft’s legal department pretty red-faced, as the Metro name has been used regularly in all Microsoft materials since the operating system was first discussed.

As a result, Microsoft was forced to drop the “Metro” branding for its tile-based design, one that can be found in Windows 8, Windows Phone 7.5, Office 2013 and even Server 2013.

The result was a week of confusion. References to “Windows 8 applications” and “Windows 8 user interface” began appearing in Microsoft materials. Now, the term “Modern UI Style” and “Modern UI” are being used in new Microsoft developer documents.

A spokesperson from Microsoft had no comment to Notebook Review on any rumored names, but did confirm that the Metro name would be shelved.

It’s gotten a lot of attention in the tech press, but to Mike Cherry, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, it’s only so much inside baseball and irrelevant to the consumer.

“Customers don’t care about this stuff,” he said. “What will drive the success of Windows 8 is the availability of apps on the Windows Store. Microsoft needs people to be writing those apps and understanding what they should be doing with those apps. All this debate about what it’s actually named doesn’t matter.”

Cherry said he understood Microsoft’s intention of the Metro design, in that it was borrowing from the design and use of color in places like subways and airports. These busy transport hubs have a minimum amount of graphics, but the use of color to help guide people is both obvious and reassuring.

But he reiterates the name is not what matters. “It’s whether developers have the documents they need, the tools they need and an understanding of the goals of these apps, so the Store is filled with apps on launch. If the Store doesn’t have anything and all you can do is go back to your desktop and run your Windows 7 apps, then that’s not an incentive to upgrade,” said Cherry.

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