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Metro Madness, Mayhem, and Murder in Windows 8?

There’s been enough hoopla and unhappiness about the Windows 8 tile-oriented user interface known until now as Metro, that MS has apparently decided to kill the name and call this GUI something else entirely. Too bad I haven’t yet laid hands on the RTM code for Windows 8, because I’d love to find out if the M-word shows up in that version of the OS. On August 2, Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reported that “…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.'” She also produced this marvelous quote from a Microsoft spokesperson about Metro: “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.” Very interesting, and even more interesting is the follow-up work that Ed Bott documents in his recent article entitled “Cleaning Up Microsoft’s Metro Mess.”

Ed performs some fascinating text analysis on the MS corpus, to produce the following information on Metro mentions therein:

  • Steve Ballmer mentioned Metro as “our featured attraction” in his 2012 CES keynote address, and then went on to mention the name 27 times in that presentation.
  • Microsoft has been encouraging developers to build Metro style apps since 2011, until the end of last week (August 3).
  • Microsoft even posed a Windows Metro Style App Challenge to students enrolled in accredited college-level programs.
  • He provides a link to a page in the Windows Dev Center entitled “White papers for Metro Style apps” that includes over a dozen entries, plus links to other materials.
  • He points to language in the App Developer Agreement that makes repeated references to Metro Style Apps as such, and also points to sessions for MS’s Public Sector Developer Weblog for sessions at a Tampa, FL, DevCamp Public Sector Series, 7 of which use the word “Metro” in their titles.
Losing Metro as a product or technology name, and consigning it to “code name” status is an interesting way for MS to distance itself from what some users and experts perceive as an unpopular and unloved aspect of Windows 8. Can this really change the OS substantially at this point? Except for nomenclature, I’d argue that it makes very little difference what MS calls its interface elements or approach, given that RTM went out the door last Thursday.
But wow, this is an amazing exercise in revisionist technology history. I can’t wait to see how this plays out in the actual release version of Windows 8, and how long it takes for this change to ripple through documentation, training materials, TechNet, and so forth. I am also intensely curious to see if this change will be accompanied by any changes to the runtime behavior of the Windows 8 RTM version. This makes August 15 even more interesting than it was already. Stay tuned!

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So Microsoft says Metro should now just be called Windows 8. I can't decide if I'm more or less confused...
Yes, I blogged about that this morning. Who ever said that the shortest path between two points was a straight line? ;-)--Ed--