Build 2012 Microsoft says it is 100 per cent committed to its new user interface (UI) design principles, as embodied in Windows 8, even though it still hasn't come up with a meaningful name for them.
Speaking at the annual Build developer conference in Redmond this week, Microsoft Principal User Experience Advisor Will Tschumy said the company has been investing heavily in design since 2003, to the tune of $20bn per year.
Those efforts resulted in the Office 2007 and 2010 revamps, he said, and culminated in . . . well, in whatever you call the Windows 8 look and feel.
Redmond first told us that Windows 8's blocky, touch-centric design concept was called "Metro," and that apps built in that style should be called "Metro-style apps."
But in August, Microsoft suddenly announced that it was dropping the Metro name from its Win 8 marketing, insisting that it had never been anything more than an internal code name and that it would no longer be used in public communications.
Fair enough; but curiously, not only has Microsoft never offered any replacement for what had become one of the defining terms of its new OS, but it has never adequately explained why "Metro" suddenly became verboten in the first place.
When asked to clarify the situation, Tschumy offered little insight into why company staffers are no longer allowed to utter the M-word.
"I'm not going to get into the details of why we're not doing that anymore," Tschumy said, but added that the correct term for apps built based on Microsoft's new UI style is "Windows 8 Store Apps."
That's actually slightly more of a mouthful than we've been told previously – and we've been told several things – and Tschumy himself stumbled over the awkward phrasing as he was pressed with further questions.
What's more, the new term isn't very helpful for describing those apps that use the new UI principles but have nothing to do with Windows 8 or its store, such as websites or apps for Windows Phone.
Nonetheless, Tschumy said Microsoft's new design principles were "the exclusive language for our experiences," adding that customers would see UIs based on the same ideas across all of the devices Microsoft touches, including PCs, phones, tablets, and even Xbox consoles.
When one confused Build attendee asked whether the "language" Tschumy was talking about was the same thing as the Windows 8 design principles, Tschumy offered only that, "The Microsoft design principles are the overall set of principles that are driving the Windows 8 Store applications."
But some Build attendees still weren't quite convinced. One mentioned that the Windows 8 Store UI rules seemed to work well for apps designed for consuming content, but not so much for apps designed to do actual work. Tschumy said that how developers lay out their controls will depend on the purpose of the apps they're building, but wasn't much more helpful than that.
Another attendee asked how, if the new design principles are Microsoft's "exclusive language," they would influence Windows 8 Desktop applications. Tschumy answered that the Office 2013 applications already include a few subtle graphical effects to make them fit in better with Windows 8, but he couldn't say whether they would evolve further.
"I can't speak to future plans beyond that," Tschumy said. "But the really cool thing about all of this is that Microsoft is 90,000 people or so, so the fact that we're all behind this and we're all pushing down these design principles is something that's tremendously exciting."
And, might we add, tremendously confusing. ®
Microsoft does have a ton of documentation on its new design principles available at design.windows.com. Still, here at El Reg West we're getting a little tired of not having a proper term to describe Microsoft's company-wide makeover – and the topic does seem to keep coming up.
Since Redmond hasn't been forthcoming, we propose calling it The Interface Formerly Known As Metro, or TIFKAM for short. But perhaps some bizarre and inscrutable symbol would be more appropriate? Send us your thoughts.