Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

Summary: Is there method to Microsoft's madness, or is the decision pure madness?

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Over the past few days I've seem a number of Microsoft pundits come up with lame excuses to try to justify Microsoft's decision to drop the on-screen Start button in Windows 8. Is there method to Microsoft's madness, or is the decision pure madness?

Here's Paul Thurrott's justification:

While it's technically true that the Start button/Orb, which used to adorn the left end of the taskbar on the Windows desktop, is missing in action, most people are missing out on two salient points. First, the Windows desktop is not the primary user interface in Windows 8 anymore. That's the Start screen.

Second, the Start button isn't gone, and it's not going away at all. In fact, it will be present on every single Windows 8 device sold going forward.

He goes on to post a picture of a physical Windows button on a tablet, and points out that a physical Windows Key is required for any PC or device to get the Certified for Windows 8 logo from Microsoft.

Well, I've got two counterpoints to Thurrott's argument. First, and I'm surprised he didn't mention this, it's just the visual 'orb' hat's being removed from the left-hand-side of the taskbar. There will still be an invisible hotspot in that part of the screen that does what the button currently does. Microsoft is kinda assuming that everyone will still go there looking for the Start button and will continue to offer the functionality, albeit without the UI.

Secondly, and I think that this is an important point - is a physical button a step forward or a step back compared to an on-screen button?

Before we answer that, let's consider Apple's iPhone and iPad. Neither of these devices have any sort of on-screen Home/Start button. Did Microsoft 'copy' Apple here? maybe, but that doesn't matter. The difference is that the iOS platform has never had an on-screen Start/Home button. Windows, on the other hand, has had this feature since Windows 95, and people have come to expect it, so I expect that it's removal (even if just the symbolic gesture of removing the UI element) will raise (and possibly knit) a few eyebrows.

Personally, I think that removing an on-screen UI element and replacing it with a physical button (a physical button that most systems already have) seems like a step backwards to me because it penalizes people who prefer using a mouse than a keyboard. I'm happy with the Windows key on keyboards, but the idea of having to rely on a physical button on a device that OEMs can put wherever they want puts me off because I know that OEMs can do boneheaded things. If Microsoft was bold enough to remove the functionality as well as the UI element, that would be one thing, but adopting some sort of halfway gesture seems like sitting on the fence to me, and all the lame excuses are just making that decision seem even lamer.

Either keep the Start button in or remove it completely.

Do you think Microsoft was right to follow in Apple's footsteps and remove the on-screen Start button, or do you think that it's one UI change too far?

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

    I don't care if it lives or dies. I just want to be able to launch desktop apps without having to exit out to the start screen and have it interrupt what I'm doing. I want an immersive desktop, not immersive apps.
    txscott
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

      @rshol
      Just pin them to your task bar, place them on your desktop or hit the Windows key / button and start typing.
      sharkboyjohn
      • Why not use its real name

        Call it the dock and we'll all be able to follow along.

        Watching Win8 is a scream.
        Richard Flude
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

      @rshol <br>That is what the task bar is for. The start button is more of a find button really. Most people (and microsoft have posted this information to confirm this) pin the app to the task bar and launch apps from there, without using the start screen.
      nanderto
      • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

        @nanderto <br><br>I have a lot of apps on my computer that I use but infrequently, for example paint.net (I may need to edit an image once a month). I don't want them pinned to my task bar cluttering it up but I want it available from inside the desktop. I can't think of a good reason I would ever want to see the start screen since I won't be using metro apps on my desktop.
        txscott
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

      @rshol I somehow get a feeling that MS has finally lost it. The only people who post enthusiastically about this are .NET developers and middle aged project managers. The youngsters are fighting flame wars about Apple and Android, not about MS. Go to sites such as ZDNET or news.com, it is the same always. The Windows 8 UI is such a confusion that it may become next to impossible to train; our company had so many issues when it moved to Windows 7 and Office 2010. While most people say Windows 7 UI looked great, the number of support calls increased more than 300% and has not come down since then. Same with Office 2010's ribbon bar as users are not able to locate things and the bar keeps going back to the first tab after an operation. Windows 8 really makes Vista look like a cake walk
      GoForTheBest
      • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

        @iRMX

        Funny, I'm a mid-20's UI designer and I love the direction MS is going. I can't believe they are the first leaders in removing all the obnoxious chrome effects. And their sense of typographical hierarchy in an a UI is awesome.

        The Ribbon takes getting used to, but once you do, its great. It's much more effective once you learn it.

        MS finally has some balls to make some serious innovative changes to how we look at a computer interface. And its extremely effective once you use it (ie Windows Phone 7). People like you who blindly hate MS regardless of what they do are pretty pathetic.
        spaulagain2
  • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

    You do know that the Microsoft pundits will say that nothing was copied.
    daikon
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button i

      @daikon Since Microsoft is pretty much copying Canonical's Unity desktop for Ubuntu (which is dropping the menu), why not also copy a right mouse-click on the desktop bringing up the menu from various *Nix desktop environments and window managers (e.g., Xfce, JWM)?<br><br>In this manner, Microsoft can avoid users clicking on a Start button that they cannot see. It reminds me of using IFRAMES to hide controls on web pages.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

      @daikon Microsoft is the innovator, linsux, and (Cr) Apple copy everything Microsoft does.
      Stephen-B
  • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

    What's the sense in having a start button if MS is going to hide it?
    palavering
  • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

    It sure makes a difference to not include the on-screen button, but why all the noise? I??ve read so many articles this days... making just a big noise of some UI decisions. I know you are paid for writting, but please, write good stuff. This article is like a 3year old crying because her dad took his toy. It??s just a button! And maybe using a registry value you can make it appear again if you want to.

    Write about how boot time and performance in general is enhanced. Write about features, good ones and bad ones if there are. Don??t just write for writing.

    Windows isn??t done just for you. Microsoft can??t have all people happy, they just can??t. We all think differently and have different tastes.
    lex0712
    • You have got to be kidding.....

      @lex0712

      99% of the destop users will have no idea on how to edit the registry, so that is not an option to fix an issue that Microsoft is going to deliberatley break.

      Contrary to your opinion that it is just a button, it is an entrench method of using the Windows OS for a lot of years. People still complain that their XP is gone, the uproar from users to Win8 will be much louder.

      Talk about 3 year olds...when do you reach the age of 3???
      linux for me
      • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

        @linux for me
        I agree with totally with lex0712. If you don't like Metro, or the button going or whatever don't buy it. Just stop complaining.
        What do you care anyway you use Linux.
        Blogsworth
      • If MS made an OS that cooked you breakfast

        @linux for me

        and made your bed you'd complain that it didn't brush your teeth.
        LiquidLearner
    • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

      @lex0712

      That's the problem with most modern operating systems: they've been systematically removing the ability to configure the system like you want if you are an ordinary user and not a registry hacker (in the case of windows). This fault is not limited to Windows, Gnome and Unity display this problem and I think Apple actually invented "no user choice" aka "we know best" aka "arrogant inflexibility". Good products are those that help users mold the product to their purposes.
      txscott
      • Many a user has no interest in "molding". Just saying...

        @rshol .. I don't buy a toaster kit and build my own I purchase a toaster ready made and ready to plug in a work. Same thing for my car. I have a lot of choice in auto's but once I find the one I want I don't have any interest in further fiddling with it to make it just so. I want it to get me from point A to point B and back again. With Auto's and just about everything else (I would not be shocked to find there are people who do customize their toasters) there have always been the fiddler and I don't care myself if it continues more power to ya. However I think you are in the minority and always will be.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

        @James Quinn
        Good luck editing video on your toaster.
        lehnerus2000
      • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

        @rshol +1
        That's why people like(d) XP so much. It offered a pretty good blend of flexibility and ease-of use. It offers(ed) about 5 different ways to get any perticular thing done, and it was pretty easy to make the glitzy stuff get out of your way if necessary. What people are bitching about with the new OS is that they are removing the ways that makes for efficient workflow when you create your own content and organize your documents so you don't need to use search... Search is only for finding things that already exist. The new OS is optimized for the 14 year old who doesn't care if she ever sees her homework assignment again.
        I use my computer for design and engineering, and I frequently have anywhere from 5 to 10 windows open at any given moment, and I'm using them all.
        berriend
  • RE: Making lame excuses for Microsoft's decision to drop the Start button in Windows 8

    The paradigm shift may be too big for current users.
    IAmMarty