startFor users who have been missing the familiar comfort of the Start menu, a future version of Windows could provide a welcome reprieve.

The next major version of Windows will “make the Start menu available as an option,” possibly in versions designed to support desktop computing, reports Paul Thurrott of the Supersite for Windows, citing anonymous sources.

The return of the Start menu would be an olive branch to users who are confused by the current functionality of the Start button — which was added to the Windows 8.1 desktop (after being taken away in Windows 8) but opens the new Start screen, not a traditional pop-up menu.

It’s the latest in a series of leaks about an upcoming Windows version, reportedly codenamed “Threshold.” Following a company reorg earlier this year, Windows is under the purview of a new operating systems group at Microsoft, led by former Windows Phone chief Terry Myerson.

[Previously: Microsoft Windows shakeup continues: App store and UX leaders move to Bing team]

According to a report by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft plans to create three different variants of this new “Threshold” Windows version. While each variant would pull from a common core, they would each feature different capabilities tailored for different device classes.

Under its current thinking, Microsoft would create one version of Windows optimized for use on Windows Phone devices, tablets, phablets, and possibly some low-end PCs in order to compete with Google’s Chrome OS, Foley reported. Those versions of the OS will be updated “frequently” through the Windows Store.

For owners of more traditional PCs, Microsoft will have two options: a consumer-oriented version of the OS, which will be optimized for keyboard and mouse users, as well as an enterprise version with all of the expected features, like group policy support and device management. For IT managers who want to have manual control over OS updates, the enterprise version of Threshold won’t update automatically.

In addition, Thurrott reported, the new OS will bring the ability for users to run Metro apps in a window on the desktop, assuming they have a version of Windows that would support that.

The reported changes seem much like the cycle that took place with Windows Vista and Windows 7. The former brought significant wailing and gnashing of teeth, while the latter fixed many users’ complaints.

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  • Ron Spins

    Stick a fork in Windows

  • Robert

    Would fix the biggest complaint on win 8.1. I like the app interface, but it is not the start menu; they are apps. Customers want the usability and quick access that the traditional start menu offered. to roll out 8.1 with a supposed start menu (nothing more than a different icon) was a slap in the face for most.

    • Ryan Parrish

      Well, you can get essentially the same thing by changing the default behavior of the start button/start screen, under taskbar and navigation properties in the control panel. You can set it to automatically show the Apps view, which is a full screen equivalent to the traditional expanded start menu. However, since global search was added to Windows XP I just hit the start button on my keyboard and type if I don’t have a taskbar shortcut, and the same functionality exists in Win 8.1. Now the start screen can function as my Modern UI apps hub and my taskbar can function as my desktop apps hub and I can switch between with a keystroke.
      I do think this should be more easily accessible from the start screen, but the ability does exist. A small update could surface those settings from the start screen itself.

      • Jason King

        When Windows gets back the Start Menu, everyone will buy it. I am ready to buy Windows 9 which will have a Start Menu. Metro is only suitable for phones and tablets. Oh, yes, they better not load it with DRM crap like Vista.

  • VAharleywitch

    MS should have developed different versions based on platform, in the first place.

    Most IT folks I know (who hate Vista w/ a passion), are almost as disgusted by Win8 for desktop/laptop use. They generally like it for tablet usage, but most companies are not able to get work done via tablets.

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