Microsoft has dropped "Metro", the name given to the squaretastic user interface for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, claiming it was just a code name all along.
Litigation, though, may be the real reason as it seems the word may be owned by a European company or individual that objected to its use.
The change comes late in the day for Microsoft: just this week the software giant gave the final build of its Windows 8 operating system to computer manufacturers so it can be installed on new machines. Third-party developers are due to get the release version on 15 August, and Windows 8 PCs tablets are due to go on sale on 26 October.
A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed the switch to The Reg. In a statement the company said: “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.”
Microsoft watchers Mary Jo Foley and Tom Warren took issue with the “it’s just a code name” defence, arguing that litigation over ownership of the Metro name could be the real reason, and that Microsoft executives are racking their brains for a new word to sum up the controversial user interface.
Warren said the change came into effect following discussions between Microsoft and an “important European partner”. He claims to have seen a memo on the subject and said Redmond is "working on a replacement term … and plans to land on that by the end of this week".
In the meantime, employees have been told to immediately stop using “Metro” on Windows 8 and other Microsoft products – including Windows Phone, Office 2013 and all related apps, market places and web sites. Instead, they must use the typically Microsoft (read, boring and literal) tagline “Windows 8 style UI”.
It’s true code names can and do change as their products approach their shipping deadlines, but it’s not always the case. Silverlight, Microsoft’s one-time Flash killer wannabe, still retains its name from its development days.
If a legal challenge is the problem, this would not be first time Microsoft’s been tripped up. In 2002 Microsoft used the name Palladium for its chip-based PC security system, which was intended to crack down on software piracy and stop the spread of computer worms and viruses. A year later, the Palladium name was dropped in the face of a legal battle with another company. Microsoft plumped for the more Microsoftesque Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSB). That technology hasn’t been heard of much since. ®