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Microsoft Says Start Button Will Return (with a Catch)

Microsoft yesterday made official one of the worst-kept secrets in the world of Windows these days -- that it's bringing the Start button back when it releases Windows 8.1 later this year. Moreover, users will have the option of booting up to the traditional, or classic, Windows desktop rather than the tile-based modern user interface that defines Windows 8.

But these two changes come with a bit of a caveat. First, the Windows 8.1 Start button will be there but it will use the Windows flag, rather than the old round button used in earlier versions of Windows. And by default, clicking on it will take you to the tile-based interface. In order to have it launch the Windows menu a one-time configuration is required, The New York Times Nick Wingfield reports.

Likewise, Windows 8.1 by default will still boot to the tile-based interface and you'll need to configure it to boot to the traditional desktop. Not a big deal but I anticipate grumbling by some already.

The original decision to remove the Start button when releasing Windows 8 angered more than three quarters of Redmond magazine readers, generating more response than any other issue in recent memory. And that response was emotionally charged on both sides of the argument.

Those angered by the move felt Microsoft was making it harder to use Windows in the traditional desktop mode for no beneficial reason. But I heard from plenty of IT pros who felt Microsoft's decision to remove the Start button was necessary to wean users away from it and toward the tile-based touch metaphor. Change happens and we need to adapt to it, the argument went.

But Microsoft failed to realize many business users who have no current need or interest in the tile interface -- and more importantly use machines that are not touch-capable -- resented the removal of the Start button. I happen to like the tile interface. But for applications that run only in the traditional desktop mode, I didn't see the benefit of learning new habits. Nor do I see why leaving it in would discourage me from using the tile interface, which seemed to be Microsoft's concern. Microsoft apparently realized that it was premature to remove the training wheels. I think it was a sensible concession with no downside. Do you?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/31/2013 at 1:15 PM


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