Microsoft Changes Windows 8 'Metro' Name to 'Windows Store App'

It's official -- well, sort of. Microsoft has formally changed the "Metro" name used to describe a user interface and an app style for Windows 8 to a new name, "Windows Store app."

The name change appears to have been first picked up by Gregg Keizer of Computerworld, citing an announcement at this week's Microsoft Build 2012 event for developers. Keizer sourced the name change to Will Tschumy, principal user experience advisor at Microsoft, although Tschumy said the official name was actually "Windows 8 Store app."

A spokesperson for Microsoft said via e-mail that the Metro name is now "Windows Store apps." However, it looks like Microsoft is open to linguistic variants along the same lines.

"Metro style was a code name we used during the pre-release stages of Windows product development," the Microsoft spokesperson explained. "Now that we are launching, we've moved away from code names and are now using the official product names such as Windows Store apps in the case of Windows 8."

The other side of Windows 8, called the "desktop," may or may not be a code word, but there was no indication from Microsoft that it was changing too. In Windows 8, which Microsoft just released to the public this month, users will see two user interfaces (UIs). The formerly named Metro side runs full screen and is optimized for touch-screen interactions. The desktop side pops up when users are running older apps designed for Windows 7, where the apps run with more traditional chromed borders and ribbon-style menus. Both user interfaces are supported by the new Windows Runtime in Windows 8, which Microsoft devised, in part, to make it easier for developers to port apps built for different platforms to Windows 8.

The important part to understand is that Metro-style apps, now known as Windows Store apps, undergo a security vetting process before getting into the Microsoft-controlled and -hosted Windows Store, which is pretty much the only place to get these applications. Consequently, the name change has some logic to it -- a Metro app literally comes from the Windows Store. There is one exception to this rule, which is called "enterprise sideloading." Organizations use enterprise sideloading to distribute their own Metro-style apps without using the Windows Store. Enterprise sideloading is a process reserved for so-called "line-of-business" apps or home-built apps in which the application is signed with a certificate that's linked to an organization's root certificate, assuring app security.  

While a name change might not seem like such a big thing, the nomenclature is very important to developers. For instance, third-party browser makers such as Mozilla and Google are building their own browsers for Windows 8, but Microsoft is permitting them only to build so-called "Metro style enabled desktop browser" (Word doc), which seems to be some sort of hybrid application that taps desktop and Metro UIs. The confusion is such that a Mozilla lawyer has suggested a potential lawsuit in the making because Microsoft isn't providing the same desktop access to other browsers on Windows RT systems (another hardware platform running an equivalent to Windows 8 OS) as is afforded to Internet Explorer 10.

Microsoft has recently referred to Metro as just a code word, although it was early on wrapped up in a whole design concept associated with Windows 8 in which the operating system would be simple and clear, much like the signage seen in airports and other public transport areas. Microsoft's idea was to stop burying applications in menus and put it all out front on the desktop in Windows 8. The Windows Store apps side of the UI appears a series of colorful tiles that can be moved about. The tiles can pull in updated information on the fly when the device is connected to the Internet, much like RSS feeds. This UI is reminiscent of the tile-based interface found on Windows phones.

It was rumored that Microsoft was dropping the Metro name because of a lawsuit from a Germany company bearing the same name. However, the company, Metro AG, refused to comment and Microsoft didn't confirm the assertion. In the interval between Microsoft's many months of indecision, Microsoft employees appeared to come up with their own interpretations for the new name. Some of the names appearing in Microsoft's blogs and literature, as well as in press accounts, included "Modern," "the new Windows UI" and "Windows 8." Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen recently referred to Metro as "Windows 8 style," but that didn't get picked.

Readers of Gizmodo had other colorful suggestions for Metro, like "the Brady [Bunch] interface," but those didn't get picked either.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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