Memo to Microsoft: This is How You Do Marketing

Ah, Microsoft -- just when you think the company has learned how to bring a product to market without shooting itself in the foot, bang! It's limping again.

Last week Redmond quietly dropped the name "Metro" from the interface design of its Windows 8, after more than a year of promoting it in the media. Why is Microsoft shelving Metro (not to be confused with Metro Shelving)?

According to the Verge, that decision was the result of "discussions with an important European partner." Aside from that sparse tidbit, it's a mystery. Verge reporter Tom Warren speculates that multi-billion-dollar German retailer Metro AG may have raised a ruckus over the name.

Maybe Microsoft was afraid people across the pond would confuse the new version of Windows with an underground train system? Or that it would only be adopted by metrosexuals? We don't know, and Redmond ain't talking.

According to ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft's official stance is that Metro was "just a code name" and was never intended to be the final name for the product or its design. Right -- companies always rebrand their products a few days before the thing is shipped to manufacturing and marketing materials are printed.

Which brings up the question: What should we call it now?

For the moment, it seems Microsoft is doing a search and replace, swapping "Metro Style" with "Windows 8-style UI" when talking about the Interface. But the Verge reporter Tom Warren claims Microsoft is really planning to use "Modern" instead -- because, apparently, there aren't any large German retailers that have copyrighted the name "modern." Or if there are, Microsoft hasn't managed to find them yet.

Still, this is a golden opportunity to come up with a brand-new name for the Windows 8 tiled interface. In fact, I think Microsoft should hold a "name that interface" contest and open it up to the world. Think about the publicity.

Let me help get the ball rolling. Here are some names Microsoft should consider to replace Metro:

Thoroughly Modern Microsoft. A name that's both alliterative and aspirational; Microsoft would love it people thought the company was thoroughly modern. With any luck, Microsoft could even snag Julie Andrews as a spokesmodel.

Windows Mista. Like Vista, only it makes it makes you misty thinking about it. OK, it makes Steve Ballmer misty; everyone else just throws up a little bit in their mouth.

Zune. Sure, it's been done before, but it's available, and at least Microsoft owns the copyright.

Windows Zombie Apocalypse. Three reasons:

  1. Microsoft eats brains.
  2. Its products just keep plodding along for years after they're dead.
  3. Zombies are cool. Microsoft? Not cool.

Microsoft Knob. Because any story about bad Windows product names has to have a Microsoft Bob joke in it. It's a rule.

Windows 8 Interface Add-On Pack Version 1.0 Professional Edition. See the rule about Microsoft Bob, above.

iWindows. Just to watch Tim Cook and the entire Apple legal team stroke out.

What do you think Microsoft's new Windows design should be called? Nominate your picks below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Memo to Microsoft: This is how you do marketing," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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