windows8 copyMicrosoft does plan to bring back the Start button on the traditional desktop in an upcoming Windows 8 update, but clicking on it won’t open a familiar popup Start Menu on the screen, according to a new report from Tom Warren on The Verge this morning.

Instead, the site reports, clicking the button will take users to the Windows 8 Start Screen — essentially what happens already when users activate the invisible hotspot in the same corner of the traditional desktop. In other words, the company isn’t really bringing back the Start button, it’s just making this command visible.

What’s going on here? It’s important to consider this change in the context of the other rumored “Windows Blue” compromise — the plan to give users the option to boot directly to the desktop and avoid the Start screen. Microsoft would be listening to customer feedback in making this change, as Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet notes.

However, the company would also be sending a mixed message to app developers. Think about it from their perspective: The Start screen is the entry point for the Windows Store and the “Modern UI” experience, the home and the showcase for all the new apps that Microsoft is hoping to get independent developers to make.

If Windows 8 users avoid the Start screen on bootup (and potentially beyond) that further diminishes the audience for those apps. That means there’s even less incentive for those developers to make Windows 8 apps, which does not help Microsoft as it tries to attract new users.

That’s where the latest report makes more sense. By making the Start button visible on the traditional desktop, and connecting it to the Start screen, Microsoft is providing a more obvious path from the desktop back to the Start screen, and minimizing the chance that users will avoid the Start screen and the new Windows 8 apps altogether.

In the end, will this help or hurt? A lot will be riding on Microsoft’s presentation of the changes to developers, which will presumably happen at the company’s Build conference in late June in San Francisco.

It’s important to note that Microsoft hasn’t confirmed any of this, but the independent reports from the Verge, ZDNet and others are generally consistent with one another.

We also addressed this topic in the news segment on this weekend’s GeekWire radio show, prior to the latest Verge report.

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  • Scarlett_Ang

    What really needs to happen (and will over time) is the reduction of apps that need the ‘desktop’. I have found that as I get more, newer apps, I’m using the start page more and more. But when you have simple apps (that came with Win 8), like the calculator, that open up on the desktop, then people won’t get used to using the start page. What I would like is being able to put my own ‘pics’ as backgrounds on the Start Page. :-)

  • A Predator Drone

    All anyone has to do is install Visual Studio and look at the Start Screen to understand why people want the old Start menu back. Dozens of icons on the Win8 Start Screen without the context of containing folders testify to the worthlessness of the Win8 Start Screen in helping someone accomplish useful work.

    If it were not for the open source ClassicShell application, which returns Win7 Start menu functionality to the Win8 desktop, I would have already abandoned Windows 8. With ClassicShell installed, Windows 8 becomes a useful tool. Without it, Windows 8 is a waste of time.

    • Scarlett_Ang

      I have my ‘icons’ nicely grouped on the Start Screen, and I don’t have to scroll through tons of ‘sub folders’ to find my several dozen most used apps. And the ‘All Apps’ page has applications nicely grouped with headers. It took me about a week to figure out how to group things on the Start Screen and now it’s much faster than the old start menu for me to launch any program I want.

      The problem is, no one wants to take the time to learn anymore. I was nervous about the change, but now I have fully embraced it and enjoy it.

      • Jason Farris

        Agree. It’s actually much more powerful than the old start menu, but folks seem to give up before they see the advantages. A curious problem.

    • Mike

      Completely agree. Installing almost any 3rd party app adds a pile of icons to the Start Screen, and then you have to go remove them all so the Start Screen is usable. Then, 3 months later, you figure out that you have to run some configuration utility, which you can’t find because there is no Start Menu. So then you start digging through the file system…

    • mike

      Most 3rd party apps install many icons on the Start Screen. I then go clean them up and remove most of them. Inevitably, three months later I need to run some app configuration tool. With no start button, I try typing a bunch of app names to search, but can’t guess it that way, so off to the file system…

      Off to download ClassicShell…
      PS. I’m a Microsoft fan. I want Win 8 to succeed.

  • Michael Hazell

    Whether I use it or not, I want the start button and menu to come back. You can have it disabled by default or whatever, and then you can enable it manually if you like.

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