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Microsoft caves on Windows Start button. Kinda

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Microsoft (s msft) 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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7 Responses to “Microsoft caves on Windows Start button. Kinda”

  1. Windows 8 has quite a few UI pieces to get used to. I wouldn’t say it’s a horrible OS it’s just something that we old school users need to get used to.

    I foresee a future computing environment that is touch, motion & voice driven and that type of environment is totally different from what we are used to. Consider this Windows 8 the next step towards that environment. Windows Vista and 7 includes the voice Windows 8 the touch windows 9 the motion Windows 10 the merger of all 3?

    Change is inevitable and it’s up to us to adapt to that change or to be lost when this new environment is unleashed.

  2. Kazumichi Taira

    Windows XP… what MS promised with Windows 95…

    Windows 9… what smart people were expecting from Windows 8

    Don’t worry Microsoft – you’ll get there (I’m sure after quite considerable internal “retirements,” “transfers,” “reassignments,” and “well-deserved FIRINGS!”

    Windows 8 was a bloody revolution of thought, practice and policy brought to you by a company that snooped and overcharged its own user base to the point where they had the hubris to COMPLETELY DISMANTLE EVERY KNOWN USER EXPECTATION, stripping away the comfort level of seasoned users and administrators alike. I have been saying since early beta that Windows-8 could only be a failure based upon the simple fact that its creators FAILED, massively to listen to its users, opting instead to abuse them along with every from the computer guy next door all the way up to senior administrators. Microsoft is infamous for taking industry standards that people love and coding them out of existence. This marketing ploy designed to fake us into believing the next jalopy is better than the last dog has gone on long enough. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft begins copping to the enormity of their miscalculation. Give it another two years and perhaps Windows-9.1 will be the dramatic step forward promised by the sad and sorry mistake that, after Windows Me and Windows Vista – strikes 1 and two, respectively, will be painfully remembered as the third and final strike out in the series that is the Windows operating system.

    It’s not all bad, though. One good thing to come from this debacle is how Microsoft has changed its pricing model of both Windows and its Flagship Office products from “own one , and then own another one” to one where we can rent to own via a subscription service. Working alongside of those who I support, I fully endorse the change and you should, too. Judging by the changes introduced here in 8.1, it’s obvious that it pays to be verbal about that which we dislike, or in Windows-8’s case, even hate. At the same time, its okay to say, “Hey, Microsoft, thank you for introducing such a great subscription service.” The service is great as it includes features like, its okay to install the software on up to five devices such as your Workstation, Home PC, and a couple of laptops, right to download and install new releases of the latest FULL VERSION of Office before most everyone else AND quite shocking and new for most users – the ability to call in for support not just when you have technical problems but when you have ANY how-to type question for every single product in the Suite.

  3. yronnen

    Apple were smart enough to realize that creating a shared UI for desktop and tablets users will result in something that will satisfy neither, Too bad Microsoft had to go through another Vista/ME fiasco to understand that.

  4. No restored Start Menu = Microsoft is lying though their teeth about listening to their customers. If the restored Start Button just takes a user back to Metro, Microsoft has pretty much just spit in the faces of their users and has indicated that it no longer has any real interest in remaining in business, because the outrage that will be engendered by such a move will make the anger triggered by the original Start Menu removal look trivial.

    Potential customers are waiting to see if 8.1 shows Microsoft is listening or not. If not, then the current stall out in PC sales will be nothing compared to what’s going to occur after a poke-you-in-the-eye-with-a-stick 8.1 is released.

    Given what’s coming down the pike with 8.1 and Xbox One, Steve Ballmer seems absolutely determined to kill Microsoft.

  5. spinedoc

    They could have easily avoided this situation if they just allowed folders inside of the metro start screen. This is the only real issue with the start screen, that you can literally have hundreds of programs and even worse EACH of those programs could have subprograms installed and they are just splattered all over the metro start screen, you could spend a lot of time just scrolling around and finding them. I understand you have some remedies, you can group together programs but that’s not much use, you can search but what if you don’t know the name of the program. The app screen is a slight improvement, but it’s still just a long list of all your programs and subprograms. What’s kind of nuts is that even iOS and Android have folders on their start screens, what does that tell you?

    • ricdesan

      What does it tell me? It tells me it is an arrogant attempt to force feed an inferior OS down the throats of the Windows community when their last iteration was a best ever product.

      I have zero interest and refuse to support this short sided app mentality when everything to date was based on a completely open and opposite process. Just because you wanted to implement the greed of an Apple ecosystem, doesnt mean you have the skill to create it or even an audience that willing to support it. Microsoft, you may want to better define what it is you are these days and get clear on your priorities!

      • Win8 is better than Win7, but there are not enough Win8 apps to justify the decision to make the start screen the boot up screen. It should have just booted to the desktop (without the start button) with an icon to the start screen pre-installed on the desktop. At a minimum, that should have been an optional setting.