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Why Microsoft Refuses to Name the Windows 8 User Interface

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#1 Nazmus Shakib Khandaker

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:04

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 is “a bold reimagining of Windows, from the chipset to the user experience.” This reimagining, then, brings a completely new user interface to Windows 8, an UI that is a complete departure from any previous versions of Windows. And since the first unveiling of Windows 8 and throughout its public preview releases, this new UI has been referred to, by the community, as the Metro UI because it follows the Microsoft’s design language that was known as the Metro design language. Microsoft itself referred to apps running on the reimagined Windows 8 platform (WinRT) as Metro Style apps. Why, then, isn’t the term “Metro” ever referred to in the operating system itself? More importantly, why does Microsoft officially refuse to name the new, reimagined, user interface?

According to Paul Thurrott in Windows Weekly podcast episode 274, when asked, Microsoft personnel would gladly call the classic desktop as the Windows 8 desktop, but they would never call the new UI by any particular name. When asked explicitly what the name of the new UI in Windows 8 is, they just called it Windows. So basically, we have the Windows desktop and, simply, Windows, and not desktop and Metro. At first, this seems quite strange because why would there not be an official name to the new UI in Windows 8; I will admit that I was quite confused by this as well. However, given some time to think about this, I am able to understand what Microsoft is trying to get at.

The trick to all this is to approach Windows 8 in a fundamentally different way. That is, we must not think of Windows 8 as having the Metro UI on top of the Windows 7 desktop, but rather, we should approach Windows 8 as having the Metro UI as the primary UI with desktop as the secondary option. Conceptually, Windows 8 is Metro plus desktop, and not the other way around. Technically, Metro is not primary nor secondary because both desktop and Metro is part of explorer.exe. But if we conceptually see the Metro UI as the primary Windows user interface, there is no need to really call it anything but the Windows UI. For instance, we don’t call the UI in Windows 7 the desktop UI or the Aero UI, but, rather, we call simply call it the Windows 7 user interface. This is the same with Windows XP, or Mac OSX. We call OSX’s Aqua user interface by, well, OSX user interface. The same principle applies to Windows 8, if we consider metro to be the primary UI. Metro, then is the Windows 8 UI, and because the desktop is now secondary in Windows 8, the classic Windows UI in Windows 8 is given a name of “desktop”.

Paul Thurrott does bring up a valid point that term Windows 8 UI is time bound, whereas something like Metro is timeless. That is, when, say, Windows 9 is released, the term Windows 8 UI will make no sense. I completely agree with this argument. I believe the proper name of the Windows 8 UI is Windows UI. In Windows 7 and prior, for example, the tem Windows UI represented what is now the classic desktop. There was no need to call it Windows 7 UI or Windows Vista UI because the UI paradigm was the same in these versions of Windows. Because the UI paradigm is changing in Windows 8, the metro UI in Windows 8 is being referred to as “Windows 8 UI” rather than simply “Windows UI” for differentiation. However, I do think that in the future, the new Metro UI will simply be referred to as the Windows UI. I believe in the future, when we hear the term Windows UI, we will think of what is now called Metro and we will refer to the classic UI as the desktop. Similarly, we will soon refer to Metro Style apps as Windows Apps and the traditional Windows apps as Desktop Apps.

Windows 8 is as much a transitional OS as it is a reimagining of Windows. Hence, terms such as Windows 8 UI or Windows 8 Apps are only temporary, which will eventually be replaced by broader terms such as Windows UI and Windows Apps. Metro, or Modern, or whatever they are calling it these days may be still referred to the design language itself, just like Aero or Aqua is.


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#2 Ci7

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:16

because someone at Microsoft got sick of stupid people calling it Metro theme

#3 threetonesun

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:26

Yeah, I think it's silly to give it a name, doubly so for Windows. You name the GUI if there's an option, like in Linux, or to some extent in OSX (you can run X11, and older versions still had older interfaces floating around). But Windows? It's Windows, no matter how the windows look.

#4 Detection

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:43

I think it's stuck with Metro UI for most people due to it being referred to as such since its birth

Unless they give it an extremely catchy new name, I`ll be calling it Metro, it's better than "The new tiles start screen thing"

#5 Steven P.

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:47

Posted to main, thanks :) http://www.neowin.ne...tro-called-then

#6 PmRd

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:49

Hey that's a sign from Montreal's Metro station :p The other day I asked my friend if he wanted to take a ride in the modern UI :p

#7 CW-88

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:51

Meh, I got used to calling it Modern UI.

#8 firey

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:57

Because some of the people at MS which feel as I do about a desktop, are hoping that by not calling it anything it will go away. "Metro UI? What?? Oh that thing, yea.. we just kinda forget about it."

#9 BattleDaggit

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:03

I think the reason they don't want it named something catchy and memorable is so people don't have such a clear target to associate with their fear, uncertainty and doubt regarding the new interface elements. Windows 8 may end up being another Vista, but the Metro (whatever) interface is a big deal for Microsoft, and I think they'd rather have the opportunity to evolve it over time, instead of being forced to rip it out completely in all future versions of Windows. If people see all of Windows 8's problems as being exclusive to this "Metro" thing, if people think of it as a clearly defined and separate part of "Windows", then Microsoft may feel a lot of pressure to remove it in Windows 9. If people just decide to hate Windows 8, they may still be more receptive to a more evolved Metro in Windows 9. That's my theory. I don't think it will affect how people perceive Windows 8 and Metro though.

I've meet many people who have said they hated Vista, and then do something ignorant like get a new computer, look at the Windows 7 desktop, and then ask with deep concern, "Is this thing Vista? I don't want Vista." After explaining what Windows 7 is, and discovering that they didn't even know there was a Windows 7, you really do have to wonder how people end up with such strong opinions based on practically zero personal experience. I think Microsoft's marketing department (such as it is) is desperately trying to avoid another Vista disaster. Not the disaster based on Vista's genuine issues, but the disaster based on out of control FUD.

#10 .Neo

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:39

It's painfully obvious that any modern Windows interface is just plastered on top of classic and can peal off at any second. When an error occurs in Windows 7 you can see Aero revert to Basic or in some cases even all the way back to Classic. User Account Control dialog windows always appear in Basic, rather than Aero. As such these new interfaces never felt like a true integral part of Windows. Even though Microsoft disabled classic in Windows 8 and tried to redirect all calls to the old interface, it's still there.

Aqua on the other hand feels like a truly integral part of OS X; the one can't exist without the other. On OS X you'll never see a window without an Aqua border around it. You won't see the interface fail and revert back to something legacy. Ever. It just isn't possible. Note: I'm not talking about apps that run through some kind of virtualization or whatever.

Rationally I fully understand the concept of Windows 8 where the desktop runs as an app within Metro. It's secondary. Much like how Command Prompt in Windows 7 runs on the desktop and not the other way around. It doesn't change the feeling that Metro seems, once again, like something Microsoft stuck on top of the same old Windows in an effort to hide its true form.

#11 .Neo

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:46

But if we conceptually see the Metro UI as the primary Windows user interface, there is no need to really call it anything but the Windows UI. For instance, we don’t call the UI in Windows 7 the desktop UI or the Aero UI, but, rather, we call simply call it the Windows 7 user interface. This is the same with Windows XP, or Mac OSX. We call OSX’s Aqua user interface by, well, OSX user interface.

I think the author is wrong here. Generally I never hear people talk about the "Windows 7 user interface". People refer to it as "Aero". Same goes with OS X. People don't speak of the "OS X user interface", they call it "Aqua". If I read about the "OS X user interface" or "Windows 7 user interface" it's when someone uses it as a synonym to avoid having "Aqua" / "Aero" multiple times in a row. Or simply when someone doesn't know the name. Even today I still read about "Luna" being the Windows XP theme.

Apple themselves actively used the term "Aqua" to refer to the OS X user interface up to Mac OS X Tiger. After that I haven't seen the name being mentioned on the OS X website.

#12 Max Norris

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:54

User Account Control dialog windows always appear in Basic, rather than Aero.

That's actually by design for security reasons; UAC notifications are handled by a process outside the security bounds of your current desktop, and since DWM is running under your credentials, it can't interact with the UAC prompt. You can tell UAC prompts to run in the context of your own desktop via a local security policy, but that's a security risk as if that's enabled, any process running under your credentials can mess with that UAC prompt.

#13 CJEric

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:59

That's actually by design for security reasons; UAC notifications are handled by a process outside the security bounds of your current desktop, and since DWM is running under your credentials, it can't interact with the UAC prompt. You can tell UAC prompts to run in the context of your own desktop via a local security policy, but that's a security risk as if that's enabled, any process running under your credentials can mess with that UAC prompt.

Huh. Sounds more like a design flaw. Why should I as a user care about all of that?!

#14 .Neo

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 13:00

That's actually by design for security reasons; UAC notifications are handled by a process outside the security bounds of your current desktop, and since DWM is running under your credentials, it can't interact with the UAC prompt. You can tell UAC prompts to run in the context of your own desktop via a local security policy, but that's a security risk as if that's enabled, any process running under your credentials can mess with that UAC prompt.

Yeah I read that excuse before and all I think is: "On OS X you don't see Authentication windows suddenly appear in Platinum or whatever". For me it just confirms that Aero isn't an integral part of Windows to same degree as Aqua is on OS X. Quite frankly it comes across as a design flaw on Microsoft's part.

#15 Max Norris

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 13:00

Huh. Sounds more like a design flaw. Why should I as a user care about all of that?!

Do you want anything running to be able to watch for the UAC prompt and automatically hit the allow button without your permission?



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