Metro is an internal code name of a typography-based design language created by Microsoft, originally for use in Windows Phone 7. A key design principle of Metro is better focus on the content of applications, relying more on typography and less on graphics (“content before chrome”). Early uses of the Metro principles began as early as Microsoft Encarta 95 and MSN 2.0, and later evolved into Windows Media Center and Zune. Later the principles of Metro were included in Windows Phone, Microsoft’s website, the Xbox 360 dashboard update.
“Metro” is based on the design principles of classic Swiss graphic design. Early glimpses of this style could be seen in Windows Media Center for Windows XP Media Center Edition, which favored text as the primary form of navigation. This interface carried over into later iterations of Media Center. In 2006, Zune refreshed its interface using these principles. Microsoft designers decided to redesign the interface and with more focus on clean typography and less on UI chrome. The Zune Desktop Client was also redesigned with an emphasis on typography and clean design that was different from the Zune’s previous Portable Media Center based UI. Flat colored “live tiles” were introduced into the design language during the early Windows Phone’s studies. Microsoft has begun integrating these elements of the design language into its other products, with direct influence being seen in newer versions of Windows Live Messenger, Live Mesh, and Windows 8.
Response to Metro has been generally positive. However, In August of 2012, rumors began circulating that one of Microsoft’s retail partners, German company Metro AG, had threatened legal action against the software giant for infringing on the “Metro” trademark. A memo was sent out to developers and Microsoft employees to stop using the term “Metro” until a replacement term is established or the legal case is settled. Microsoft is temporarily referring to the design language as Modern UI. On August 9, 2012, it emerged that Microsoft was planning to use the term “Windows 8” to replace Metro in consumer marketing materials. The “Modern UI” term appears to be intended for developers who plan to build software based on Redmond’s new design principles.