Microsoft Plans a Hollow Start Button for Windows 8

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.

Windows 8 Start Screen

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.

6 Responses to “Microsoft Plans a Hollow Start Button for Windows 8”

  1. Mster Hepburn

    CTRL-ESC is your best friend. Few casual users care about the start button, the restofus and the bestofus can use shortcut keys. I’ve been using Windows Server 2012 for a while now and I never use the “metro” interface, even though it’s clearly there. CTRL-ESC pulls up the usual Windows program list that the start button used to pull up. From there, it’s all so familiar.

  2. MISTER HEPBURN, Spending much of my day on a laptop, I’ve become a short-cut fiend. I just use the Windows Key for that. Still love Alt + F4 to close an app which even works on the Modern UI thankfully. My favorite is Alt + TAB, to quickly switch from app to app.

    Thanks for sharing that.

  3. E Fyke

    I HATE the new UI in Wndows 8. Will not work well in a business or professional situation. The color schemes are WAY too bright and the desktop is cluttered.
    Most windows users on PCs are BUSINESSES, not casual users. I know I wouldn’t want that mess on my office’s computer screens.

    • Mister Hepburn

      I totally concur, but what are the alternatives? Right. So get used to it. The decision has been made. From past experience, there will be several workarounds available if there aren’t already. And also from past experience, I think the interface will be a winner with casual user and office staff alike. They want simple, bright (even garish, ugh) interfaces. I, for one, cannot abide by it, and I’m thankful that the server 2012 desktop is a configuration manager rather than that horrible interface. I only see it now when I accidentally run my cursor off the screen in the bottom left hand corner, which sometimes causes a little bit of my lunch to try to leap from my stomach back into my mouth.

      Oddly enough, I like running my mouse off the bottom right hand corner. That’s an easy way to get to things I actually want and need to use!

    • Mister Hepburn

      Well now Windows looks more like a window with panes if you ask me, so it’s more like Windows than ever before. I never thought a bunch of little icons on the desktop ever looked like windows myself… perhaps when you have several programs open simultaneously it looks like windows, but I doubt most work and casual users do that. (I do, of course, I’m a pro! lol).

      Perhaps the start buttons should have been the OPEN button – makes more sense in context, right? OPEN a window. No one STARTs a window.