Microsoft will restore the Start button to Windows 8, though it won’t lead to a Start menu as previous versions did. Instead, the button, which will look like Windows 7’s version, will take users to the Windows 8 Start screen, according to the Verge. At ZDNet, Mary Jo Foley says the button supposedly wasn’t originally part of the Windows build, but is indeed looking more likely.
Here’s the thing: A Start button that doesn’t include a menu is disingenuous. It doesn’t give customers what they want. It’s an answer, not a solution.
Microsoft has been slow to return the button because removing it was part of its broader vision, which included a consistent experience along every device that has a screen. Smartphones, tablets, desktops and even servers would use the Modern UI. Users would glide from one device to the next, using the same interface, with their profile and data would following them around. All their applications and data would be available through a Live ID/Skydrive interface provided they had an Internet connection.
But as PCWorld’s Tony Bradley wrote in 2011, and what Microsoft fails to acknowledge is, “the problem comes back to the fact that mobile devices serve different roles than PCs.”
Why doesn’t Microsoft know this? Even the name of the interface that lost the Start button, the desktop, is ubiquitously used for computers that sit on desks and today can have 40-inch screens. Those tiles can get pretty far away when everything on a start screen is grouped in tiles that can’t be nested. Worse still, you’re only allowed to display two applications in the Modern UI. Microsoft is said to be increasing this to four. Why not 30? Why not treat the desktop as if it had a big screen?
For years Microsoft and Steve Ballmer have been accused of being reactionary to all things Apple and acting with no clear vision. Today Microsoft has a vision for a new Windows that will look the same on all devices.
But you can’t put a Start button on a tablet and you can’t remove it (without ripping some skin) from the desktop. This silly business and Microsoft’s refusal to restore the Start button in a meaningful way underscore a company committed to a vision — regardless of what its customers want.