Microsoft is reportedly ditching the Metro branding to describe the tiled interface introduced with Windows Phone and central to Windows 8. Speculation started swirling yesterday afternoon and a leaked internal memo obtained by The Verge confirmed the change will come into effect very soon. The decision was apparently prompted by a potential trademark dispute "with an important European partner."

The Windows team is "working on a replacement term" according to the memo, but until then employees and developers are advised to refer to the Metro style user interface as the "Windows 8 style UI."

German retailer Metro AG is believed the company at odds with Microsoft but so far they've declined to comment on the rumours. Microsoft for its part has come forward with a statement to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley denying the change is due to a trademark dispute, explaining: "We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names."

Some believe Microsoft may simply be de-emphasizing Metro because of potential user confusion -- apps built for Windows RT are often referred to as Metro apps, while many applications designed for the traditional x86 desktop variant of Windows 8 (like the new Office 2013) also use elements of the Metro look and feel. Plus, there doesn't seem to be reference to Metro in Windows 8 besides the ones in APIs for developers.

The trademark conflict theory seems to be gaining ground, however, especially after the leaked memo. Whatever the reason the decision seems a little rushed as Microsoft works with parners to release its Windows 8 operating system to the general public on October 26.

Image credit: istartedsomething