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With Sinofsky Gone, Start Menu Could Return to Windows 8

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.

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  • AbbasJin
    Tried Win8 for a few days (still do on secondary PC) and getting the start-menu back with another app (classic shell open source) was the first thing I did.

    The modern UI is pretty much unusable without a touch screen and with mouse it becomes a chore. I'm glad classic-shell adds the start menu button as well as hides the modern ui on user-login.

    Besides this, win8 is pretty solid, just like the tried and tested win7 that i still love. There are a few software hiccups with win8, like my vpn app needs to be reconnected after login/come-back-from-sleep but its not bad at all, after all its win7+more features.
    Reply
  • enewmen
    Call me an optimist, but I still think by the next version, the Modern UI will be easier to use and more functional while "PC" users will see some advantages in the new UI while liking the idea of running the FULL Windows OS on a phone with FULL size apps. Not castrated, watered-down, lame mobile versions.
    The software should be flexible to auto-detect touchscreens AND mouse & keyboard (default to the currect interface) - as well as easy to attach a HDMI, mouse & keyboard to a mobile device. So you CAN run apps well on the mobile device, desktop, or using the phone like a desktop.
    My phone out-performs my 10 year old notebook and I don't want to go back to the WML days of tiny screens that can't to much more than view phone call logs. Want to run a Siri type app locally on your phone - OFFLINE?
    Reply
  • kenyee
    AbbasJinTried Win8 for a few days (still do on secondary PC) and getting the start-menu back with another app (classic shell open source) was the first thing I did.
    Thanks for that pointer.
    The stupid UI has been driving me nuts...shutdowns take 4 clicks and lots of mousing. I can't find apps I installed without going into the install directories and linking to each of the app executables, took a while to find the Services app. I'd quit if I were Sinofsky too...this makes the lives of Win7 upgraders hellish :-P
    And I don't use the metro UI except for login...it's cutesy, but looks like it belongs on a phone.
    Reply
  • digiex
    Leave it as it be so that Stardock can make money.
    Reply
  • wemakeourfuture
    kenyeeThanks for that pointer.The stupid UI has been driving me nuts...shutdowns take 4 clicks and lots of mousing. I can't find apps I installed without going into the install directories and linking to each of the app executables, took a while to find the Services app. I'd quit if I were Sinofsky too...this makes the lives of Win7 upgraders hellish :-PAnd I don't use the metro UI except for login...it's cutesy, but looks like it belongs on a phone.
    For Shutdown:

    1. You can always do ALT+F4 in the desktop mode, if you're in the Metro, Windows Button (or switch to desktop) -> ALT+F4

    2. Move mouse cursor to Top or Bottom right (no mouse click) -> Settings -> Power -> Shutdown

    (Note: Windows 7 has the ALT+F4 or Start -> hover over power options -> Shutdown)

    Windows 8 has 1 extra step if you go the long way.


    For finding Apps:

    I really like the Search -> Apps, lists everything in alphabetical order, will files grouped by program.
    Easily can scroll with the mouse across letters, and its always sorted unlike my Start Menu.

    I find pinning my main apps to the Start (Metro UI), and having them there as opposed to the bottom taskbar or icons in my desktop like the old windows style a lot nicer. Clicking Windows Button, then seeing the program icons I have setup in a nice clean way always in the order I leave them in is really nice. 98% of the programs I open are "Pin to Start"
    Reply
  • killerclick
    enewmenCall me an optimist, but I still think by the next version, the Modern UI will be easier to use and more functional while "PC" users will see some advantages in the new UI while liking the idea of running the FULL Windows OS on a phone with FULL size apps. Not castrated, watered-down, lame mobile versions.
    Who would want to run full size apps on a phone? The interface is the problem, there are some things that just aren't suited for a small touchscreen. And the difference between say a 24" screen and a smartphone screen is such that it's silly to have the same (or even similar) interface for both.
    Reply
  • godfather666
    Great news. I'll actually buy the upgrade if that happens.
    Reply
  • odd_enough
    Searching for programs 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

    Just for future reference, you don't have to go through the charms bar to access the search function. Searching in Windows 8 works exactly the same as Windows 7. Throw your mouse down to the bottom left corner, click, and start typing. Bam. Search. How is this not easy?
    Reply
  • kinggraves
    enewmenCall me an optimist, but I still think by the next version, the Modern UI will be easier to use and more functional while "PC" users will see some advantages in the new UI while liking the idea of running the FULL Windows OS on a phone with FULL size apps. Not castrated, watered-down, lame mobile versions.
    Sounds like a nice idea. Why do WP8 and RT exist then? The needs of a phone/tablet and PC just differ too much to make one OS that performs the same way across the board.

    I still find it odd that Sinofsky, who did not agree at all with Windows 8 and was confrontational about the changes, wanted the start button removed. Ever have your boss tell you to write something even though you didn't want to, and sign your name to it? I mean, Ballmer is the boss regardless, he could have said no, he didn't. Ballmer is still responsible as CEO for approving this horrible decision.
    Reply
  • velocityg4
    Really I think to most people the lack of a Start Menu means very little. The average user when they want a program closes open window then open the program or file they wanted and do the same thing every time they want to change a program. Because they have absolutely no idea what is going on with a computer. The only way they can get to anywhere on the computer is from the same blank slate of a desktop. They can't switch between windows let alone a start button.

    If the screen does not look exactly as they expect it to they can't do anything on the computer. Without at least a great deal of effort.

    The much bigger deal is booting to Metro. For the average computer user. They will have absolutely no idea as to what to do. They will be completely lost and not be able to do anything until someone shows them a procedure of screens and clicks to memorize.

    Which is something I think people that understand technology don't get when dealing with most users. They don't understand how anything is working. All they know is the procedure they memorized. Then they can work in a very limited scope outside of what was memorized.

    Which is why I don't understand what Microsoft hoped to accomplish with Windows 8 and alienate a great deal of customers. Whom now may look at Mac OS X since they have to relearn everything anyways. It won't be Linux even the easiest Linux is far too complex for the average user.
    Reply