Now that former Windows Division president Steven Sinofsky is out of the picture, there's speculation that Microsoft may add the traditional Start menu back into the Windows platform. Currently Microsoft isn't commenting on the subject, but an article published by USA Today points to the possibility.
As it stands now, Windows 8 consumers sticking with the more traditional desktop mode can right-click on the Modern UI thumbnail in the bottom left-hand corner. This pulls up a menu containing links to Programs and Features, Disk Management, the Command Prompt, the Control Panel, File Explorer and more.
Alternatively, users can create shortcuts on the desktop so that the environment doesn't feel like an alien landscape. This process can be somewhat annoying, a burden Windows 8 users could have done without had the Start menu remained intact. Searching for programs while staying in desktop mode means loading up the Charms bar stored off-screen to the right -- or typing "Windows key + Q" to pull up the search function -- instead of simply clicking a button.
So why did Microsoft rip out such a helpful tool? After all, it seems like hitting the Start button is easier than hunting down the sweet spot for the Charms bar or typing in a shortcut. Sinofsky detailed his reason for killing the Start menu here, indicating that customers really don't use it anymore – if anything, they pin their favorites to the taskbar itself.
Sinofsky reportedly talked Ballmer into replacing the Start menu with the hybrid touch screen and a keyboard and mouse interface. He said the move was crucial for the company to get PC users familiar with the look and feel of the Surface tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices. Ballmer bought the pitch, and now millions of Windows 8 users are looking for ways to bring familiarity back to their desktop.
To make matters worse, the enterprise sector will likely not even consider the Windows 8 platform until next year. The big hurdle is user training and acceptance in corporate settings. On a consumer level, the removal of the Start menu can be tolerable, but on a corporate level, legions of employees and executives will be forced to relearn their daily tasks. That's time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.
"Many people resist change because breaking habits is difficult," said Karl Volkman, chief technology officer at hosting services provider SRV Network.
The timing of Ballmer firing Sinofsky isn't coincidental, claims Al Hilwa, IDC's applications development software analyst. The Windows division reportedly announced declining sales in the company's first fiscal 2013 quarter (which ended September 30), and Ballmer is likely not happy with what he's currently seeing six weeks into the new quarter (and two weeks into Windows 8's release).
That said, there's a good chance Ballmer and the Windows team are considering a resurrection of the Start menu. "Clearly, if the product isn't doing well, they could come up with a service pack that restores the Start Menu," Hilwa says. "There's a whole bunch of smaller decisions that could make the product easier to use with a mouse. They may have to dial the needle down enough to bring enterprises on board."
For now, Windows 8 users can get their Start menu fix thanks to Stardock. The company has reportedly sold "tens of thousands" of its $5 Start8 app which brings the Start menu back where it belongs.
"We were having some success with word of mouth before the Windows 8 release, and since the release, the floodgates have been opened, and the demand is surprising even us," said Kris Kwilas, Stardock's vice president of technology.
Looks like some people miss their Start button.