Remember Metro, the tile-based interface in Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8? Well, that name may already be extinct.

According to various news reports, the technology giant is discouraging use of the term, both internally and externally. One potential reason may be a legal conflict with an existing use of the Metro name.

Branding Confusion?

Some suggest that Microsoft has been propelled into discontinuing the use of the Metro term because of discussions with an unnamed European partner company. The reason is not clear, but apparently relates to some legal conflict identified by the partner. Already, some Windows developers have been notified that they should discontinue using the term Metro in their Windows 8 apps.

In a statement, Microsoft said it has used “Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines.” As Windows 8 gets closer to launch, and as it transitions from industry use to consumer use, the company said it will begin to use “commercial names.”

Aside from the rumored legal conflict, another theory is that the company is wary of branding confusion. For instance, Microsoft has moved away from its use of Live as a branding term, such as Windows Live, since it confused customers as to what the product or service actually was.

Similarly, an overabundant use of .Net branding about a decade ago led to a restriction on the use of that term.

New Name Coming

Metro could also contribute to buyer confusion. It has been touted as the central feature of the new OS, although its tile-based interface is designed primarily for touch-screen interaction, such as on a tablet. The tablet-based OS is Windows RT for ARM-based devices, and there is already confusion about when Metro refers to apps built for RT, or when it refers to apps built for non-ARM devices that only use a Metro-style interface.

Just to confuse things more, Metro-style has also been used to describe the Windows Phone 7 interface for smartphones, as well as the interface designs for other Microsoft software.

A new name to replace Metro is reportedly in the works, to be revealed any day now. In the meantime, Microsoft employees are supposed to refer to the interface-formerly-known-as-Metro as “Windows 8 style” user interface or as the “new user interface.” This creates its own level of confusion, since Windows 8 also includes the traditional keyboard-and-mouse interface.