Although it appears that we may not see the beloved Start Menu until Windows 9 (if at all), at least Microsoft is making an effort to merge the desktop with the Start Screen. As seen with the release of Windows 8.1, customers can now use the same wallpaper image on the desktop and Start Screen background. Now leaked images show that Microsoft is taking the merge one step further in Windows 8.1 GDR1 (or Windows 8.1.1?).
Screenshots leaked by Russian website WZOR show the icon for the green Windows Store app firmly planted on the desktop taskbar next to the File Explorer icon. The shots also reveal a "Show Store apps on the taskbar" selectable option on the "Taskbar and Navigation" properties window. This gives customers the freedom to load the "Metro" apps from the desktop or keep the two interfaces separate.
This leak swings back to previous rumors reporting that "Metro" apps will be able to float in windowed mode, just like desktop applications. Unfortunately, the screens don't reveal whether "Metro" apps will actually run in windowed mode on the desktop, or if the taskbar shortcut takes the user back to the Start screen to load the app.
Running "Metro" apps on the desktop isn't slated to be a feature until Windows 9. So far we've seen two dates for that particular release: this fall around the same time Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 were released, or sometime in Spring 2015. Either date could be possible, although there has been more talk regarding the Spring 2015 release than the Fall 2014 rumor.
Windows 9, codenamed "Threshold," is rumored to be released alongside Windows Phone 9, the first major Xbox One update, and a unified store. By then, Windows RT is expected to be rolled up into Windows Phone, leaving Microsoft with one desktop platform, one mobile platform, and one console platform, all bound together by the same core components and services.
What's quite possible is that Windows 8.1 GDR 2 will appear this fall, preparing the platform for the "Threshold" Windows 9 update next spring. Right now all of this is speculation and rumor. However, the roadmap should become clearer once BUILD 2014 hits this April.