Return of the Start button may not be what you think

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Here’s a new twist to the rumors of a return of the Windows Start button: The Verge this morning is reporting that a new Start button in Windows 8 will direct users to the updated Windows 8 Start screen, rather than the Windows 7-style Start menu.

One of the more common complaints about Windows 8 is that it doesn’t include the familiar Start button from previous versions of Windows. The Start button was a simple tool for navigating Windows. With the development of Windows 8, Microsoft launched a radical new user interface featuring colorful, customizable tiles representing apps.

But it didn’t do away entirely with the familiar desktop view. In part to ease the transition and in order to support apps that haven’t yet been rewritten for the new interface, Microsoft lets users toggle between the new UI and the old desktop view. However, the desktop view doesn’t have the familiar Start button.

Rumors have been circulating recently that Microsoft plans to add the Start button as part of an update to Windows 8. So far, the assumption has been that the Start button would mimic the traditional Start button. It would be much like any of the third party apps, like one from Stardock, that let people add the old Start button.

If the Verge is right and the Start button instead takes people to the updated Windows 8 start screen, the result is sure to disappoint some users. People will click on the Start button expecting to see the old menu. Getting directed to the updated UI instead likely won't appease the complainers.

Also, it strikes me as a bit silly to add an old-style Start button that directs users to the updated start screen. New Windows 8 machines already include a hard button that takes users to the updated start screen. Users can also point a mouse in the bottom left corner of their screen to return to the updated start screen. Do we need yet another way to get there?

However, if you think that Microsoft is committed to the updated UI, it makes sense that it might want to harness the familiarity of the Start button to help direct people to the new UI. If Microsoft isn’t ready to abandon its updated UI just yet, it wouldn’t make much sense to offer the traditional Start button because that would eliminate any reason for people to visit the updated Start screen.

I suspect Microsoft itself hasn’t yet decided. While the Verge is reporting that the Start button is a done deal, Mary Jo Foley reported recently that it’s not entirely certain. Microsoft may yet be sussing out the implications of all the Start button options.

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