Microsoft Risks Confusion With New Windows 8 Branding

SurfaceMicrosoft’s Windows 8 will be launched in less than three months, and some developers and media have already gotten a look at it. But while everything appears to be copacetic, it’s not.

The Redmond-based giant has stopped using the word “Metro” to refer the tile-based UI used in both Windows Phone and Windows 8, likely due to a trademark dispute with the German retailer  Metro AG.

In the end, the kerfuffle may not be a big deal — as long as Microsoft comes out with another creative term for Metro the UI. With such a drastic change in an OS that most users are already familiar with, there is a need for clarity.

While there may be suitable replacement names, e.g., “Tiles” or even “Square,” ZDNet’s Marj Jo Foley’s sources tell her the new term will use is simply “Windows 8.”

Need a Good Name

Although Microsoft has trimmed the number of Windows 8 editions it’s offering to just three — Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT — it’s all still confusing to users, especially the RT edition. The average user won’t have any idea what “RT” means, let alone how it’s different from its siblings.

Some may expect it to be a fully featured Windows 8, only to be disappointed by the fact that it can’t run traditional desktop software. Things will only get worse if Windows 8 becomes the nomme de guerre. Salespeople will have hard time explaining that a Windows RT device has a Windows 8 interface, but really isn’t a full-fledged Windows machine because it can only run Windows 8 apps.

Truth is, the desktop and Metro environment (I’ll still call it Metro until Microsoft officially gives it a new name) are wholly unalike, and there is a need to use different terms to refer to them. The generic “Windows 8″ is a surefire way to cause confusion. Also, by incorporating a number of Windows versions into the term, there’ll a need to change it every time Microsoft comes out with a new OS.

Without an official announcement, we can’t say for sure what Metro will be called. But please, Mr. Ballmer, don’t call it Windows 8.

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