Lenovo Signs Deal That Adds Start Menu to Windows 8

With the details surrounding Windows 8.1 finally revealed, it looks as if Lenovo has taken matters into its own hands in satisfying consumer demand by offering what Microsoft will not: an out-of-the-box Start Menu. This desktop feature was part of the Windows platform since Windows 95, but Microsoft ripped this feature out with the launch of Windows 8. Now Lenovo plans to put it back.

Pokki developer SweetLabs said on Thursday that Lenovo will preload the full software suite on nearly all of its new Windows 8 computers starting with IdeaPad and IdeaCenter models, and then the Think line of PCs. This should help new Windows 8 users feel more at home after shifting up from Windows 7 and Windows XP-based computers.

Not to be confused with the tasty, chocolaty and crunchy Pocky, SweetLabs' Pokki is an application framework that provides a mobile app-like interface on the desktop. It's similar in appearance to what Google is providing with Chrome packaged apps, but the software also returns the beloved Start Menu to where it belongs in Windows 8, making this solution an interesting combo.

"We started SweetLabs with the dream of building the world’s largest app distribution platform – connecting the right apps with the right users," the company said in its blog. "While developers continue to fight for attention and distribution in the crowded iOS, Android, and Facebook channels, we’ve unlocked a massive, new channel – enabling the opportunity to recommend and promote apps on brand new Lenovo PCs."

In Windows 8, the Pokki menu combines with the new Start Menu into one UI so that users can quickly access both locally-installed programs, the Control Panel, My Computer, documents, pictures and so on in addition to all the apps installed via the Pokki environment. The latter library of desktop apps can be acquired through the company's Pokki App Store that serves up both free and paid solutions like Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, SoundCloud and more.

"Everything our hard working Pokki squirrel creates – from the Start menu to the modern desktop apps, to the app store and the new game arcade – is all about making the PC experience better for users, as well as helping developers get their apps in front of the right users," the company said.

SweetLabs co-founder Chester Ng told CNET that Pokki solves the bloatware problem for OEMs too. For instance, during tax season, the software can promote Turbo Tax as opposed to the manufacturer pre-loading the trial software onto PCs. Unfortunately, it's the bloatware that drives manufacturers' profit margins, so bloatware-free PCs are likely not in the foreseeable future.

"We can help OEMs monetize users because of our ability to provide targeted dynamic recommendations," added CEO and co-founder Darrius Thompson. He pointed out that those recommendations have already generated more than 1 billion USD this year alone, and will eventually be more profitable than the current bloatware system.

Both Ng and Thompson wouldn't say how many end-users have the Pokki suite installed, but they did admit that the software has increased in popularity, and has seen around 20 million downloads since the launch of Windows 8 in October 2012. On average, a Windows 8 user opens the software at least ten times a day, they said.

On Thursday the company said in its blog that the Pokki App Store and app recommendation platform now supports additional app types, starting with traditional Windows desktop apps. The company has also internationalized Pokki to support 13 languages i.e. Chinese (simplified), Danish, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Portuguese (Brazil), and Russian. Up until now, the software was only provided in English.

  • rantoc
    Its a shame when a company further down the chain have to fix a mistake made further up, especially since the company further up refused to admit and fix that mistake! Thoo hardly surprising, every other Windows have been garbage since the beginning!
  • qlum
    even OEM's start adding back their own start menu.
  • bryonhowley
    Microsoft needs to stop this kind of thing now. OEM's should not be allowed to screw up Windows 8 like that. There is no reason what so ever for a start menu period. Windows 8 and 8.1 are perfect the way they are.
  • digiex
    I'm still not buying notebook/PC with preloaded Windows, you just get bloatware with added cost.
  • viometrix
    well stardock fixed this issue months ago with a program call start8, it add a perfect and fully functional start menu back just like the one in windows 7.... lenovo's answer is just pseudo-fix as it doesnt look and act like the 7 start menu we know and love.
  • Larry Bob
    While I do appreciate Lenovo's response to customer feedback on W8, this "start menu" should be replaced with Start8 or StartIsBack as both of those would be more familiar to W7 consumers.
  • cpatel1987
    @bryonhowley: May I ask how a third party application that can easily be uninstalled from the machine is "screwing up windows"? If someone has knowledge on how to uninstall something, its very harmless.
  • michalt
    They're not looking to put the start menu back in for their customers, they're looking for an additional channel to sell people software. Otherwise they would put in a simpler product like Start8 or StartIsBack. Pokki is an advertising platform that shares revenue with the OEMs. This is just a different kind of bloatware.
  • sykozis
    11420526 said:
    well stardock fixed this issue months ago with a program call start8, it add a perfect and fully functional start menu back just like the one in windows 7.... lenovo's answer is just pseudo-fix as it doesnt look and act like the 7 start menu we know and love.

    Pokki isn't intended to look like the Windows7 start menu. That's what Start8, StartisBack and Start Menu 8 are for. Pokki is intended to reduce the initial bloatware that's installed on the system by recommending software to the user that he/she might actually want/need. It's basically locally installed adware that includes an app store so that OEMs can better monetize their customers while reducing the usual bloat that we're all accustomed to. However, Lenovo isn't the only OEM going this route....though SweetLabs isn't disclosing who the other OEM is.
    I'll pass. There is a plethora of apps which will add a Start menu minus the bloatware.