So long, Metro: Microsoft’s new Windows 8 design branding may just be … Windows 8

Just when we started getting used to the Metro name for Microsoft’s new design aesthetic, the software giant ended up backing away from the term to avoid a prolonged legal battle with its German partner Metro AG. Now it seems Microsoft may just replace it with a much simpler (and more boring) phrase: Windows 8.

Sources tell ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft workers are now being guided to plug in “Windows 8″ for every previous reference to “Metro.” Now, “Metro-style applications” are referred to as “Windows 8 applications,” and the “Metro user interface” is now called the “Windows 8 user interface.” (The latter will be particularly confusing on Windows Phone, where the Metro design language first appeared two years ago.)

Foley also points to the promo page for Lenovo’s Thinkpad Tablet 2, which references “Windows 8 apps.”

Microsoft isn’t confirming the name change, but the company could barely admit that it was actually using the Metro name in the first place. When we first heard that the Metro name would be going away, Microsoft reps argued that it was just a “code name” and not something meant for commercial release. Of course, all the promotional materials surrounding Metro, including a slick design book handed out at Mobile World Congress, said otherwise.

While calling all of Microsoft’s new design elements “Windows 8″ isn’t exactly sexy, it may be more clear for consumers who are experiencing this interface for the first time. And moving forward, those consumers will likely end up referring to those design elements as “Windows 8″ anyway.

Still, I miss the Metro name. It sounded exciting, energetic, and something entirely unlike Microsoft’s typically stodgy attitude. But maybe I was just grasping for something to love after Microsoft killed the Courier and decided to push Windows 8 on tablets instead.

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