Microsoft Trainwreck Edging Towards “Modern UI” to Replace “Metro”

It’s like a train wreck, but in slow motion. It edges forward ever-so slowly, horrific and chilling. You know what’s going to happen, but just like yelling “Stop! No! Don’t do it!” at the movie screen when the girl splits off from the main group in a horror film, your shouts and protestations fall meaningless, echoing off of deaf ears.

And just like a real-life train wreck, you simply can’t look away. The train continues pumping forward, creeping towards its eventual doom. Destruction is its fate, and the only question remaining is finding out if anyone survives. At this point, I fear the answer to that question is no.

Microsoft Trainwreck

That’s what I feel like when watching Microsoft’s efforts to drag itself into the 21st Century with Windows 8 and Metro/Windows 8 Style UI/Modern UI, the last being the latest incarnation of how Microsoft is trying to brand the touch interface for Windows 8.

It started for me with Windows 8 itself, when Microsoft announced that the tablet was nothing more than a small PC. The company said that software that ran on Windows 8 tablets would also run on Windows 8 PCs, with the caveat that there would be a touch interface called Metro.

This is insane, to me—and I once had medium-high hopes for Microsoft being able to leverage its assets to come up with a tablet that could compete with the iPad. The company has a massive footprint in the living room with its Xbox console gaming platform, and that’s the hook the company should have hung its tablet hat on.

Instead, Microsoft just can’t let go of Windows, the world’s largest PC platform (by a long shot). The company seems determined to turn Windows into an anchor draped around its neck like some kind of depressed, nautically-obsessed alternate universe version of Flavor Flav.

I still give Microsoft props for coming up with a UI that didn’t rip off Apple. The Windows 8 Metro Windows 8 Style UI Modern UI interface is original, it’s interesting, and potentially useful. In fact, it’s biggest shortcoming seems to be that nobody cares about or is interested in it.

It got worse earlier this week, however, when Microsoft apparently agreed to stop using the “Metro” name for the touch interface version of Windows 8. The company was sued by Euroasian retailing giant Metro AG, who, it turns out, has a trademark for “METRO” that covers consumer electronics.

As a sidenote, whoever is in charge of vetting trademarks at Microsoft should probably get sacked. If not that person(s), then whoever it is that should have listened to that person should be sacked, and on up the line.

In the wake of that initial news, Microsoft put out a placeholder name for the interface formerly known as Metro, calling it Windows 8 Style UI, a name whose awfulness would best be measured with a yardstick of Biblical proportions.

Microsoft was able to dig deep, however, and find something even worse. The Verge reported on Friday that Microsoft has begun referring to the interface as “Modern UI,” “Modern UI Style,” “Windows 8 Modern UI Style apps,” and even—and I am not making this up—“Modern UI-Style UI.”

What the holy frak does all that crap even mean? “Modern UI?” That’s a marketing descriptor, not a name that anyone outside of Redmond, WA is going to embrace. It’s wishful thinking, not branding. It’s equal parts self-delusion and desperation.

It’s bloody awful.

And for the love of all that Bill Gates built, pick one and stick to it! All those names I mentioned above? They’re all referenced in one form or another in the same document, meaning you can’t even blame this on different teams scrambling to implement a hasty change as fast as is humanly possible.

I still give Microsoft all kinds of credit for having the guts to do its own thing, even though the company should probably be sued for breach of fiduciary responsibility for canning the Courier project. The truth, however, is that the only thing worse than calling an interface “Modern UI” is not understanding the living lesson that is the iPad: media tablets aren’t PCs.

For the sake of not having legions of temp workers rendered jobless in the Washington State area, I hope that “Modern UI” is merely another placeholder on the way to something badass, like “Espresso,” or “Curry,” or even “Windows Touch.” There is no shortage of names that are more appropriate and better than “Modern UI.”

Image made with help from Shutterstock.