Windows 8: the Return of the Start Button

Microsoft is about to release an update to Windows 8, cleverly called Windows 8.1.  Among the many improvements: more Modern UI goodness for control panel items, better multitasking and…tada!  The Start Button and a boot to desktop ‘feature’.

Yep. Microsoft caved. Months and months emphatic talk from the company, which took a hard line on these two features: Neither were coming back. Well, they are. Apparently, an edict came from high up in the company (Ballmer?) to restore these features.

So, 8.1 will deliver (supposedly, but, as Mary Jo Foley points out, we won’t know for sure until it actually releases, things could change before then) a Start Button and an option to boot to the desktop.

It isn’t as bad as it seems, thought.

The Start Button is just a button that takes you to the ModernUI Start Page. Yup, no start MENU, but the Start PAGE.  I can deal with that.  It’s the boot to desktop that is a bit harder to swallow. It isn’t necessary, you can get to-easily-all of your applications, ModernUI or antique desktop via the Start Page.

However, since all the Start Button will do is take on back to the Start Page, I guess this arrangement is more palatable.  I am guessing, though, that Microsoft has improvements to the Start Page in the pipeline to make it somewhat easier for those who still seem to have a difficult time with ModernUI.

Microsoft says a public preview of 8.1 will be out in June, but I’ve heard that these changes will NOT be in that preview. So, we will have to wait until sometime in September, when the final code is unleashed.

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Windows 8: it isn’t bad and it is not difficult to use

win8startMicrosoft is readying an upgrade to Windows 8 (surprisingly called Windows 8.1) which should address some issues with the operating system as well as add new features.  Microsoft is hoping the changes will help the operating system, which the tech press is now panning after heaping praise on the OS.  Among the improvements: ‘metro’ updates to more of the system settings, less dependencies on the antique desktop mode (they should ditch that now.)

Now, noted CNet/ZDNet columnist Mary Jo Foley is saying that ‘sources’ are now saying that there will be options to boot to the antique desktop and add the now useless Start Orb back (this, after Microsoft claimed to have removed the plumbing for it…riiiight.)  While I am all for the ‘metro’ additions, I can’t say I support the option to boot to the let-it-go-already desktop.  Seriously. The old Windows dressings need to go and go now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying ditch Win32 all together, but there is zero reason to leave the desktop intact.  None. It is holding back the operating system. Seriously holding it back. As long as it is there, people, who do not want to change, will continue to use.

Mary Jo herself proclaims this line reasoning as the number one reason Microsoft defaults boot to the Start Page. She is right.

The biggest gripe I see and hear is that Metro is difficult on non-touch devices. I use it on two desktops with decidedly non-touch interfaces and have no problems getting around. In fact, I find it just as easy, if not a bit more so, than with touch. The other criticism is discoverability.  Well, if that is the case, then every touch device currently out suffers from this very same issue.  Did you know that the iPad uses gestures?  Can you name them? Do you use them? My guess would be no. Most people just swipe and tap.  That is it. Well, guess what? It is the same for Windows 8 RT. With or with out touch, it is the same.

I think part of the problem is the name. “Windows” really does not suit it, but it is still Windows underneath.  And Windows has the recognition (good or bad.) Windows RT denotes the non-Win32 stuff, but still is confusing. Microsoft would have been better off naming that something completely different and explain that “Windows” is compatible with what ever that is.  Say, WinTab RT.  That would be a lot less confusing.

At any rate, the grumbling about using a mouse and keyboard with RT is silly. It is no less useful than that damned old desktop.  And, lets be honest, not every facet of the desktop is obvious. You have to right click to do certain things. That is NOT intuitive at all. We do it because we know or someone told us.  Well, same thing can happen for RT.

My point is that people seem resistant to Windows 8 solely because it is different. Not for silly reasons like ‘it isn’t very discoverable.’ Its funny that my five year old stepson can pick up the mouse and use Windows 8 like it is second nature. I did not show him how. He figured it out. In just a few minutes.  If a five year old can do this, certainly adults can.

Look for Windows 8.1 preview to be available sometime in June.