Microsoft listens, and gives everyone the Start button they didn’t ask for
I had an old uncle who watched a lot of TV. If you tried to speak to him while he was concentrating on the screen he would politely nod and say "I’m listening" even though he patently wasn’t. Microsoft is the tech world equivalent of my uncle.
I knew when Windows division CFO Tami Reller discussed the Start button with The Verge a month ago and said: "We've really tried to understand what people are really asking for when they're asking for that", the end result would be something nobody had asked for, nor wanted. And of course, that’s exactly what the Windows 8.1 Start button is.
Sure, you now get a button sitting on the taskbar when in the desktop. Just like in the good old days. But when clicked it takes you away from the desktop and chucks you back to the Start screen. Behavior no different from tapping the Windows key in Windows 8. Or clicking the area of blank space near to where the button now resides.
You can configure what that button does so it will display the All apps screen instead of the Start screen, which is a compromise of sorts, but Windows 8.1 still throws you out of the desktop when all you want to do is run a program.
It’s the equivalent of being forced to actually go outside through a door to see what the weather is like, instead of just being able to peer through a window -- like you used to be able to do before it got bricked up when all those "improvements" were going on. Microsoft lets you use your desktop wallpaper as a background on the Start screen, to fool you into thinking you’re still in the desktop, but you aren’t.
You can shut down your computer by right-clicking the Start button and selecting that option from the mini (non-customizable) menu that pops up, so there's that at least.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the behavior changes in Windows 8.1 and the fact that I can go to an apps screen from the desktop by tapping a Start button. It’s a definite improvement. And I appreciate that Microsoft didn’t want to do a complete U turn and revert back to an old style Start button and menu, but anyone who upgrades to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7 or XP purely because they've heard the Start button is back, will feel more than a little duped when they actually try it for the first time.