Will the real Metro replacement please step forward?

081112 0536 Willthereal1 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Microsoft has a lot of good things going for it right now. The company is on the verge of releasing a wave of new products and services that are, in many ways, a large departure from what’s come before. The company is in the process or merging, integrating, redesigning, and rebranding most – if not all – of what it has to offer. Sadly, Microsoft also has a major problem: nobody knows what to call the UI that much of this is based on. After a week of speculation, we’re still no closer to finding out what the replacement branding is.

Not a day goes by where we don’t hear about another new rumored name for the interface. So far, all of the suggestions that have been thrown about are poor replacements. “Next User Interface” wouldn’t last more than a few months to a year. “WinRT” is too technical, and it shares its name with the Windows Runtime engine included in Windows 8. The ARM-based version of Windows 8 is also branded Windows RT, which could lead to some confusion since both Windows 8 and Windows RT are based on what could be known as the “WinRT UI.” “Windows 8 UI” is even worse, since Metro was around long before Microsoft decided to use it for Windows 8. It would make it too complex to refer to the interface on other Microsoft products. Are Zune, Windows Phone, Xbox, Office, Outlook.com, etc. based on a “Windows 8-style” UI? Now, the latest rumor claims that the replacement for “Metro style” is “Modern UI style.” This is less than ideal, but it’s probably the best of the bunch at this point.

The new name for Metro needs to be hip, trendy, and timeless. Not technical or bland. If Microsoft can’t keep using the word Metro, then it’s going to have to find a decent replacement. Mike Guss, one of the minds behind the Metro UI we see today, now appears to be referring to it simply as “M.” One could attempt to extend this to simply “M UI” or “MUI,” but Microsoft already uses this acronym to refer to “Multilingual User Interface” and the Oakland-based StoryManager, Inc. owns the trademark. Microsoft could also pay homage to the product that truly kicked off the Metro trend by calling it “Zune UI” – it owns the name, after all – but this probably isn’t the best idea. Neither is “Surface UI.”

I don’t claim to have the answer to Microsoft’s dilemma, but whatever name the Redmond software giant settles on needs to be one that is simple, easy to say/understand, and applicable to a wide range of operating systems and devices. It’ll be used to describe everything from the interface and design patterns to the apps they’re used to make. If it can’t be called “Metro,” then what is it?

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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