Stop being so bloody-minded, Microsoft -- bring back the Start menu!
Unlike my colleague Brian Fagioli, and many other disillusioned users, I think Microsoft made a serious mistake when the Start menu and button were removed from Windows 8. The company practically admitted as much when Windows 8.1 saw the reintroduction of the Start button. But this was simply not enough. Windows is all about the Start menu, and for many people the Start button and Start menu are so inextricably linked that to have either without the other just makes no sense.
Sure, we have the Start screen in Windows 8.1 and from it you can achieve pretty much what you were able to do with the Start menu. But it is not the same. Windows 95 was all about the Start button and the Start menu that it conjured up. Yes, we may be the thick end of 20 years down the line, but this is at least partly the point. We have had almost two decades to get used to a particular way of working. It would be strange if there wasn’t a backlash against something we have become so used to.
Brian, like many others, is under the impression that the modern interface and associated modern apps are the future of Windows. I disagree. I think they are important and will play a role in the future of Windows, but they are far from being the end of the story. It has been suggested that those who don’t like the Start screen should just suck it up and learn to live with it, but what about the millions of enterprise and business users all over the world?
Microsoft is obviously keen for as many people as possible to upgrade to the latest operating system -- both home and corporate users. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are such a sea change from Windows 7 and its predecessors that training is needed to acclimatize workers to the new OS. Laugh at this if you like, but it is true. Windows 8 and Windows 7 are completely different beasts, and for the average office worker it is not going to be a case of sucking it up and learning to live with it, there is a serious learning curve.
It is IT departments that have to deal with training employees. Companies have to foot the bill for this and lose countless man hours as staff disappear on training days and work more slowly in the new UI. I'm surprised a bigger, louder stink isn’t being kicked up.
There are already rumors circulating that the Start menu could make a return in Threshold -- although even more recent speculation suggests that there could even be an update to Windows 8.1 next year that brings a 'mini-Start' with it. This could mean that Start menu lovers no longer have to rely on third party solutions to get back the feature they so love.
Of course, the blame for all of this lies firmly at the door of modern apps.
The point of modern apps is that they are supposed to be touch-friendly. Everything is big and ready for jabbing with a fat finger. This means that interfaces are bigger, uglier, and there is less room for useful buttons. Complex pieces of software such as Office -- think spreadsheets and databases -- simply do not translate to this medium. So-called 'legacy' apps are needed, and they are going to be needed for a very long time. Businesses are not going to drop them and neither are a huge proportion of home users.
And if this is the case, a 'legacy' system is needed for accessing these apps. This is what the Start menu is. It was designed, tweaked, did its job wonderfully... and was then unceremoniously dropped. Being anti-Start screen is not the same as being opposed to progress. The Start screen has its place… but it is not for everyone. It would be madness to think that after so long doing things a particular way, something so radically different (and the Start screen really is quite different) would be embraced without question.
So, come on Microsoft. Wake up out of this slumber. Yes, there is a place for modern. It's on Surface. It is not for the desktop. Desktop users need the Start menu and the great degree of control and accessibility it provides. Stop being so bloody-minded, admit Modern just isn't for most people, and do something about it.