The term "Metro" and Microsoft's new blocky user interface have synonymously gone hand-in-hand ever since Microsoft began openly detailing Windows Phone 7 last year. "Metro" describes a departure from the Windows of old, a geometric, typography-heavy, modern interface ideal for touch-based devices. It's the central look and feel on Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox 360, Office 2013, Visual Studio 2012 and other new and upcoming products.
But now Microsoft's use of the "Metro" term may soon come to an abrupt end. Several sources are reporting that Microsoft's Legal and Corporate Affairs team has distributed a memo to all internal and external parties banning the use of the "Metro" term. The memo reportedly claims that the Redmond company has been threatened with legal action for infringing on "Metro" trademarks currently held by German retailer Metro AG.
That said, instead of using the previous Metro-based description, Microsoft will reportedly use the "Windows 8-style UI" terminology when talking about Windows 8 applications. It will also use the "New User Interface" terminology when discussing the company's full Windows 8-based product line-up.
However there's also talk that Microsoft wants to ditch the "Metro" description in fear that it may cause potential user confusion. Microsoft suffered a branding issue ten years ago when the marketing teams got carried away with .Net, thus forcing the company to rename products and overhaul marketing materials. Microsoft is already seeing confusion between WinRT apps, and non-WinRT apps that still use Metro elements.
"We have used 'Metro style' as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines," a Microsoft representative told ZDNet, seemingly dismissing the legal claims. "As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog, we will use our commercial names."
Windows 8 went RTM on Wednesday, August 1, and will go retail by the end of October. Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to hit the market in November.