Microsoft caves on Windows Start button. Kinda

windows 8.1

Microsoft  Windows 8.1 will offer users a more familiar desktop mode featuring — you guessed it — a Start button, albeit one that looks different from the old standby. Previews of the new operating system upgrade have been promised for attendees of Microsoft’s Build Conference in June.

In a blog post, Antoine Leblond, corporate VP, provided some detail around the 8.1 release. He wrote:

You can even choose your desktop background as your Start screen background, creating a greater sense of unity and familiarity. And the Start screen in Windows 8.1 features a variety of tile sizes including a new large and new small tile, so you can organize your Start screen exactly the way you want it. It’s also even easier to name groups and rearrange tiles. You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them. We also found people were accidentally moving tiles on their Start screen so in Windows 8.1, you press and hold (or right click) to move things around.

Windows 8 debuted last fall to mixed reviews. One problem, as our Kevin Tofel reported, was that Windows 8 and its new tiled Metro interface was trying to bridge tablet and PC worlds and that was maybe a bridge too far. But many criticized just how different it looked and that’s a problem for a franchise with hundreds of millions of users.

Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place. It wants to embrace new form factors with an OS optimized for them but also needs to placate millions of existing — and change resistant — users. But some question whether Windows 8 underperformed (although Microsoft says it sold 100 million copies) because users don’t like it or because users just aren’t buying as many PCs.

It’s hard to overstate how big a deal the Windows Start Button is to users. Some of us old timers remember when Microsoft licensed the Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” to  promote this very important feature of Windows 95. And on that note, here’s a good excuse to revisit that era:

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