Window RT 8.1 Users Get a Start Menu

Microsoft this week rolled out an update to its Windows RT 8.1 operating system that adds a Start Menu, and not much else.

The free update arrives via Microsoft's Windows Update service for devices running Windows RT 8.1. Once applied, this update replaces Windows 8.1's Start Screen with a Start Menu that's somewhat similar to the one in Windows 10.

The new Start Menu will display a header for the user's name and image next to a power button. The user's picture now can be added in a circular frame in that header. The Start Menu also has a list of pinned apps, a section for most frequently used apps and an all apps button. The Start menu also includes a search box and a large grid area for pinning Win32 apps, according to Microsoft's description in its Knowledge Base article 3033055 (see image).

[Click on image for larger view.] New Windows RT Start Menu. Source: Microsoft KB article.

Typically, Windows RT machines can only run the few Win32 apps shipped by Microsoft with the OS, such as Internet Explorer. The machines are mostly confined to running Windows Store Apps (also known as "Metro" apps).

Microsoft had promised in a Q&A announcing Windows 10 that this Windows RT update would arrive in September. But the Q&A also noted that Windows RT users can't upgrade to Windows 10. They are at a dead end in terms of Microsoft's OS development strategy going forward.

The new Start Menu released this week is a kind of a consolation for Windows RT purchasers. Windows RT users are out of the loop as Microsoft diversifies across device form factors with Windows 10 and rolls out new features on a monthly basis with its "Windows as a service" push.

Microsoft only provided the Windows RT operating system through hardware manufacturers, which preinstalled the OS on the machines they sold. However, today the hardware makers of these ARM chip-based devices seem to be nonexistent.

Microsoft Surface and Surface 2 devices once were available running Windows RT. However, that's all ended now. Microsoft's current Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 product line are just Windows 10 based. Dell was the last Microsoft OEM partner that made Windows RT machines. Dell dumped Windows RT about two years ago.

Microsoft used to make Nokia Lumia devices running Windows RT, but an official of the company told The Verge in February that it stopped making the Lumia 2520 Windows RT tablet.

While there appear to be no more new Windows RT devices coming, Microsoft's support for the dead-end OS will be continuing for almost eight years, providing that users have upgraded to Windows RT 8.1. Windows RT has "the same lifecycle policy as Windows 8 with support ending 1/10/2023," According to Microsoft's product lifecycle page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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