Just When "Metro" Started Making Sense...

By Martin Schaeferle | September 11, 2012


Microsoft has always had a knack of constantly branding, and then rebranding; shifting focus, and then rolling it back. I remember back, oh, about a decade or so, when Microsoft was first branding the ".NET" term. It seemed that everything was becoming a ".NET this" and a ".NET that". Remember .NET Servers? It was clear Microsoft got slightly carried away in their naming but in the end, once the dust settled and things got cleaned up, the .NET term was cemented and exists to this day.

Furthermore, it was important to have because it represented a clear shift in Microsoft's direction and if you didn't adopt to the new development practices, you were left on the side of the road to parish. So what about the term "Metro"? Microsoft had a vision dating back prior to the Zune and Xbox on the future of their UI. It was driven by key cultural changes going on in the marketplace: touch-centric computing, always connected, and increasing mobility.

With the magnitude of the changes required for Windows to meet this vision, the term "Metro" was created to provide a distinct differentiator between the old and the new. Microsoft's formal definition of Metro is: Metro is our design language. We call it metro because it's modern and clean. It's fast and in motion. It's about content and typography and it's entirely authentic. With this new mantra, Microsoft released additional terms to further define this Metro experience including:

These terms were all used to describe any application written to run on WinRT; as opposed to an application written to run on Windows 7 or the Windows 8 desktop (your basic Win32 app). For more than a year, Microsoft painstakingly worked at getting developers and users alike to understand this new vision. Then, moments before RTW, Microsoft changed the game. Metro, it turned out, was merely a code name and not the official name going forward... What? Huh? Microsoft was quick to release the official terms going forward:

  • Metro style applications became Windows 8 style applications
  • Metro design became Windows 8 design
  • Metro user interface became Windows 8 user interface

So what does this mean? When defining your applications, you will need to be clear regarding the platform it was built on to run. When you call it a Windows 8 application, you are identifying it as being about to run on WinRT. If it was built for the desktop, you must refer to it as a Desktop application. Make sense? Keep in mind, since a Windows 8 app runs on WinRT, they will also run on Microsoft's new Surface tablets. So essentially, building Windows 8 applications is analogous to building Microsoft Surface tablet applications.

As with most Microsoft branding rollercoaster experiences, I'm expecting over the next year that most of the bumps will be ironed out-it's all part of the ride. Which brings up another question, what happens when Windows 9 ships? Will we still use the term Windows 8 user interface or will it change? Hmmm.

Martin Schaeferle

Martin Schaeferle has taught IT professionals nationwide to develop applications using Visual Basic, Microsoft SQL Server, ASP, and XML. He has been a featured speaker at Microsoft Tech-Ed and the Microsoft NCD Channel Summit, and he specializes in developing Visual Basic database applications, COM-based components, and ASP-based Web sites. In addition to writing and presenting technical training content, Martin is also LearnNowOnline's vice president of technology.

This blog entry was originally posted September 11, 2012 by Martin Schaeferle