Windows 8.1 will bring back the Start button


Microsoft will resurrect the Start button in Windows 8.1 (Blue), which is due to be released later this year. This follows last week’s news that Windows 8.1 will let you to skip the Start screen after logging in, allowing you to boot straight to the Desktop.

This news comes from The Verge, which cites the usual “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans.” Don’t get too excited, though: As it stands, the resurrected Start button will still open the new, tile-based Metro Start screen. For now, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to bring back the old Start menu — for that, you’ll still need to install a third-party Start button/menu app. Who knows, though — if Microsoft has finally decided to back down on its severe Start-screen-über-alles stance to appease Desktop users, then it would make sense for the Start menu to also make a glorious return. We also don’t know if the Start button will be visible by default in Windows 8.1, or enabled via an option that’s hidden deep within the Control Panel.

If Microsoft had opted to kill the Start button or introduce the brand-new Start screen with Windows 8, that would’ve been bad enough. That Microsoft decided to do both at the same time, both alienating the old users and disorienting the new, will remain one of the tech world’s greatest mysteries. There was definitely an argument for removing the Start menu — it wasn’t being used much, and the new Start screen replicates most of its features — but in combination with the other changes it made Windows 8′s learning curve dauntingly steep, leading us to call Windows 8′s interface a train wreck. As the head of Microsoft, Julie Larson-Green, said: it may take up to six weeks until users feel truly comfortable with Windows 8′s interface changes.

In Microsoft’s defense, it claims that it removed the Start button and menu due to data gathered by Windows 7′s Customer Experience Improvement Program, which reports anonymous usage telemetry to Microsoft. It is ironic, though, that Microsoft’s outgoing CFO says that the resurrection of the Start button, and booting straight to the Desktop, is due to “customer feedback.” Personally, I think that Microsoft forced the Start screen upon us in a desperate attempt to gain mobile relevancy and market share, but we’ll probably never know the truth.

So far, Windows 8.1 (aka Blue) is shaping up to be the operating system that Microsoft should’ve originally released back in October. If all goes to plan, the Windows 8.1 Public Preview will be released at Microsoft’s Build conference in June, at which point will finally have confirmation of the Start button’s return — and perhaps, if we’re lucky, the Start menu as well. Beyond the Start menu and button, we also know that Windows 8.1 will introduce more options for snapping side-by-side apps and an improved Metro Control Panel.