Last week, there was talk that Windows would receive two key user-interface changes in an upcoming update. One of these is the ability to "float" Modern UI/Start Screen apps on the desktop, and the other is supposedly the return of the classic Start Menu.
According to sources close to the Windows team, the Start Menu goes by the codename "mini-Start" because it won't fill the entire screen like the tile-based Start Screen. There's also talk that unlike the new Start Button introduced in the Windows 8.1 update, this Start Menu will only reside on the Desktop. A link will likely take the user to the full Start Screen, as seen with third-party apps like Start8.
So what will this Start Menu look like? How will it work? The name seems to imply that the Start button will pull up a miniature version of the Start Screen, which will have Modern UI app tiles and tiles for desktop applications. This may be where the "floating" aspect comes in. Click on the miniature Facebook tile and launch a "floating" app on the desktop.
That said, then why would Microsoft need the Start Screen if the Start button launches a miniature Modern UI menu? Remember, this is an operating system built for different form factors; the Start Screen is better equipped to handle touch on tablets and touch-based hybrids. Of course, this is all mere rumor and speculation anyway, so take it with a grain of salt.
Microsoft may be adding the Start Menu back to Windows because it wants customers to upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft doesn't want these specific customers to shy away because it looks too unfamiliar. The Start Menu made its debut in Windows 95, meaning customers have grown accustomed to launching the Start Menu to access their programs and system tools for eighteen years.
So when will this new Start Menu make an appearance? That may happen during the Update 1 wave reportedly coming in Spring 2014, as Microsoft may be wanting to address the issue as soon as possible. Then again, the company may hold off on adding this feature until the larger "Threshold" wave, which is expected to bring the operating system up to version 8.2.