How’s this for a new era at Microsoft?

Microsoft operating systems chief Terry Myerson announced this morning that the company will be bringing a version of the traditional Start menu back to Windows 8 in a future update to the Microsoft operating system. The company had previously brought back the Start button, but clicking on it currently leads to the Start screen, not the traditional pop-up Start menu.

In addition, Myerson announced that universal Modern-style apps will be able to run in a window on the traditional desktop, not just in full-screen mode as now.

The surprise announcement came on stage at the company’s Build conference for software developers in San Francisco. (See this live blog by GeekWire’s Blair Hanley Frank on the scene.) Among other news, Myerson said that Windows will be free in the future on tablets and phones with screens smaller than 9 inches, and “Internet of Things” devices.

The removal of the traditional popup Start menu from Windows 8 was one of the biggest targets of criticism from longtime Windows users. Myerson showed the new menu on stage at the event but didn’t explain how it will work with Windows 8.1’s existing navigation mechanisms.

Earlier today at the conference, Microsoft unveiled an update for Windows 8.1 that is due to be released next week, with a series of concessions for keyboard and mouse users. The return of the Start menu and windowed universal apps are expected to come in a future update for Windows 8.1.

Also see: Windows 8, Take 3: One giant leap for keyboard and mouse

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  • tsupasat

    This is great news. I really want to like Windows, but I struggled with Windows 8 and I’m a fairly proficient PC user. The move to make Windows free on portable devices opens some great potential opportunities for Microsoft in terms of capturing the next-generation of computing devices. Great strategic move, IMO.

  • Edward McBragg

    Bring back the Performance Information and Tools control panel applet. I want to get my score again!!!

  • Christopher Budd

    If only this had been a configurable option with Windows 8.

    That would likely have led to eventual adoption of Metro (albeit with improvements for usability).

    As it is, this is just a sad end to a terrible chapter.

    Metro on Windows 8 ends not with a bang but a whimper.

    • SilverSee

      What are you talking about? Metro doesn’t ‘end’ at all; it becomes far more relevant. The full Metro UI, including the Start Screen, is still there on tablets (and on PCs too, should you want it.) More importantly, by enabling Metro aps to run on the desktop, Windows Store will see an explosion of growth and interest, and this should stimulate interest in using Windows on tablets and mobile devices.
      This choice of interaction models obviously should have been there from the start in Windows 8, and it was stupid for Microsoft to not anticipate the backlash, but none of that invalidates Metro per se. With these enhancements we will see the rebirth of Metro, not its death.

      • Christopher Budd

        I’m talking about this: “In addition, Myerson announced that universal Modern-style apps will be able to run in a window on the traditional desktop, not just in full-screen mode as now.”

        My read is that this subsumes Metro within the old desktop. So it’s being corralled in what amounts to a VM.

        Metro may stay dominant on touch scree devices but on the desktop it’s caged likely for good.

  • Asok Asus

    How is it considered “desktop friendly” when the “restored” Start Menu is nothing but a reformatted version of the universally loathed Metro UI Start Menu? Microsoft is completely insane. Their first attempt at “restoring” the start menu was just a button that took you back to the dreadful Metro UI. Now the second attempt is just a mini version of Metro UI. I wonder who they think they are kidding? Certainly not their bread and butter enterprise and SMB customers. If anything, these pretend-restorations just continue to demonstrate the utter contempt that Microsoft has for their fleeing customers.

  • Jon

    The start menu is idiotic. The start screen is a dramatic improvement in usability. Why the hell would they bring the start menu back?

  • Carlos Osuna-Roffe

    I’ve always compared Windows 8.x to Flat Screen CRT TVs with PIP and those “ginormous” remote controls. It was CRT last attempt to compete with LCD and Plasma which were still too immature to be offered as choice.

    Once LCD grew up and HDTV terrestrial became widespread, it was game over for CRT.

    Not sure this is the best comparison, but I’m sure it reminds us how hard is for old technology to evolve and how easy if for newer technology to uproot them once a key differentiation factor appears (flat screen light weight screen back them, touch screen today).

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