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Microsoft's Branding Nightmare

Metro? Modern? Windows 8? What's going on here?

First, word comes that Metro's out as a designation meaning "applications built for the version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors". Apparently, there was a partner conflict that Microsoft didn't want to turn ugly. But here's the thing: Metro's been used for years now to refer to the new UI. My question: why didn't anyone discover this potential conflict before? Big, huge, Jupiter-sized epic fail by marketing or someone else at Microsoft. My prediction: heads, more than one, are going to roll over this -- in fact, they may have already.

Since the initial revelation that Metro's gone, several more trial balloons have been floated. The first was simply replacing Metro with "Windows 8". That's a tough one, however, since Windows 8 is an operating system, and not a UI. Can you see the potential confusion coming? Windows 8 apps on Windows 9? Windows 10? One shudders at the thought.

The latest rumors floating around the Web, from Mary Jo Foley and others, is that "Windows 8" may be out, and "Modern" may be in as the UI designation. This makes more sense, since it would once again be referring specifically to a UI, and not an OS. I have to say, however, that Modern doesn't exactly thrill my toes as a name. Sorta bland, blah, un-memorable.

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft's not done. It seems the company isn't sure what to do now, so they're flailing about, throwing name spaghetti at the wall and seeing what's likely to stick. Given the name-game musical chairs now being played, it seems that this is a pretty big deal in Redmond. And indeed, it should be. Windows 8 is a critical product, acting as the first bridge between the traditional software/OS combo and the mobile era that demands new software and nimble OSes. Getting the branding right is important, since those products will be competing with the dominant brands of Apple and Android.

In other words, I'd be surprised if the name ends up being Modern or Windows 8. This may not be settled until Build.

Posted by Keith Ward on 08/10/2012

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