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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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