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.