Eye on Microsoft

About this Blog: This is Shane O'Neill's blog about Microsoft's corporate strategy and its various software and services — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Eye on Microsoft

Microsoft Kills 'Metro' Name but You Won't Be Able to Avoid the Design

Metro is dead, long live Metro. Microsoft stirred up confusion by dropping the brand name "Metro" from the Windows 8 nomenclature yet still forcing users to boot directly into a Start Screen based on the design language formerly known as Metro.

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Hey Windows 8 users, if you want to bypass that whole "Metro" start screen when booting up Windows 8 device you, um … you can't. Not anymore.

Microsoft allowed users to boot directly into the Desktop version of Windows 8 (by using a short cut) during the Release Preview of the OS. But according to leaked builds of Windows 8 RTM cited in a ZDNet blog post by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft has blocked users from bypassing the tiled Start Screen and going straight to the Desktop in the final RTM version of Windows 8.


The Windows 8 Start Screen based on the Metro design language, now
referred to as "Windows 8 Style UI."

Windows 8 will be generally available on Oct. 26.

Paradoxically, this comes only a few days after the brand name "Metro" had been sent to the Microsoft recycling bin. Metro, as it used to be known, is the design language of Windows 8 (and Windows Phone), with the Metro tile-based start screen serving as the gateway into Windows 8.

Now, Metro will be referred to as "Windows 8 style UI" which, though clunky-sounding, will be easier for consumers to understand. It's just Windows 8. The term "Metro," it seems, was puzzling consumers.

And Microsoft, as always, needs to curb the confusion. It's already complicated enough with an ARM-based version of Windows 8 (Windows RT), an x86-based version (Windows 8 Standard and Windows 8 Pro), tablets and ultrabooks made by OEMs, and the Surface tablet made by Microsoft. What tech consumers crave is simplicity.

Other reports indicate that the Metro brand name is being dropped for copyright reasons. Namely, a German retail giant called Metro AG wants its name back. But that charge has not been confirmed.

Whatever the reason, it's annoying that after treating Metro like it was a brand name for months – CEO Steve Ballmer was practically chanting "Metro, Metro" at CES in January  – Microsoft is now acting as if it were just a code name. But the reality is that Microsoft oversold the Metro name to the world, and either created marketing confusion or got into legal trouble, and is now backtracking.

But back to the whole blocking direct boot ups into Windows 8 Desktop. Because direct boot was available in the Windows 8 Release Preview -- granted via a no-longer-available short cut --- it feels like Microsoft has turned on us by forcing everyone to start with the tile Start screen.

The Start screen is not without its fans. It does work well on touch tablets, some would argue it only works well on touch tablets. But many others, particularly business users and older traditional PC users, see the Start screen as an annoyance and something to warm up to slowly, if at all.

In a new survey of almost 2,000 IT pros by Tech Republic cited in the ZDNet blog post, one of the main drawbacks of Windows 8 for enterprises is that the corporate desktop is now an afterthought due to Windows 8's emphasis on mobile and touch.

Of course you can still get to the Desktop version by clicking on the desktop tile once you are on the Windows 8 Start Screen. There is also a keyboard short cut to do the same thing: Windows + D key.

What do you think? By eliminating the freedom to enter Windows 8 the way you want, is Microsoft cutting off the toes to fit the shoe?


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