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Iconic Windows UI element makes a comeback -- but perhaps not how some hoped

In many ways, Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) new Start Screen -- originally codenamed Metro -- represents the old-fashioned start menu on steroids.  There's both good and bad to this; on the one hand it allows for rich animations, powerful sorting, and better support for touch.  On the other hand, many app developers make poor use of its extra space and many users feel it's uncomfortable and bloated on a traditional PC.

As it marches towards Windows 8.1, Microsoft is looking to show it's listening to criticism from its fans -- halfway listening at least.  The Verge is reporting that its sources are saying that the beloved Start Button will make a comeback in the upcoming release.

But this isn't your daddy's start button -- it will dump you right back into the Start Screen (Metro UI) similar to the Charm.

Windows Blue
A new Start Button is reportedly being added to Windows 8.1, but it doesn't work like the start button of yore. [Image Source:]

The second report corroborates  ZDNet's chief Windows expert Mary Jo Foley, who last week said her sources were buzzing over a Start Button comeback, contradicting previous rumors that it would stay dead:

For those looking to stay on the desktop and navigate a more traditional start menu, you can always grab a third-party app like Pokki.  As of January Pokki had already recorded 1.5 million downloads and was used on average 10 times a day by customers, despite Microsoft's insistence that its own internal research showed customers were no longer using the Start Button.  (Pokki monetizes itself via a bundled third-party app store).

Microsoft sold 60 million Windows licenses as of January, but a significant portion of those are though not yet to have made their way to end users.  Regardless of the actual number of live Windows 8 users, it's clear a relatively large minority have opted to restore the Start Button via third party workarounds.

Windows 8.1 will also reportedly have the option to boot directly to desktop via a setting.  The new operating system is expected to launch sometime in the next few months.

Source: ZDNet

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RE: Figured as much
By inighthawki on 4/22/2013 3:32:58 PM , Rating: 2
Most probably with Windows 9 MS will replace everything with Metro, and integrate missing features (just as Win 8.1 already does), which makes it more productive than Win 7 currently is. But till then, Windows 8 is a test/beta version and I fully understand that people don't want to spend money to become a free beta tester for a new not fully integrated UI with little to no improvements for the average joe.

I consider myself one of the people who enjoys metro (particularly on my tablet), but to think, for even a moment, that removing the desktop entirely is in any way productive is just laughably wrong. Not only do they lose 99% of their backwards compatibility, but it removes the most successful UI paradigm to date for content creation. I think together they can work well (especially if MS was smart and allowed metro apps in windows). But just metro? That's the day even I will stop upgrading windows.

RE: Figured as much
By epobirs on 4/23/2013 4:50:41 AM , Rating: 2
The desktop is not going away. The only place where Microsoft is going to push an all-Metro environment are highly power sensitive devices like tablets, where using the desktop is problematic away from a docking keyboard and touchpad anyway.

Battery driven devices are driving the industry, though. The primary reason for the new desktop style was that they found Aero was a real pig on power draw. It didn't matter for a desktop but the added GPU activity could make a significant difference in battery life. The desktop still uses hardware acceleration as that is actually more power efficient but it does it in such a way as to let the GPU go into a lower power state more frequently. (And it's only fairly recent that a typical GPU could do this well.)

They could have offered the use of Aero with a warning in the menu that this is not recommended for battery driven machines but that was the choice they made. Personally, someone who freaks over the desktop style is really grasping at straws.

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