Microsoft to bring back Start menu, windowed apps to Windows

Microsoft to bring back Start menu, windowed apps to Windows

Summary: Microsoft officials are sharing an unusual glimpse into the company's Windows roadmap during the Build 2014 conference.


With another update to Windows 8.1, Microsoft will be bringing back a Start Menu and windowed Metro-Style/Modern apps, Microsoft officials confirmed during the company's Build 2014 show.


Terry Myerson, the Executive Vice President of the operating system group, told attendees of the Build keynote on April 2 that Microsoft will be making these tweaks to Windows in an update to Windows 8.1 that will be available at some point in the future.

Microsoft is making its first update to Windows 8.1 available to customers starting today. It wasn't clear from Myerson's remarks if he was referring to an Update 2 later this year or to Windows 9, which we Microsoft watchers have heard is a Spring 2015 deliverable. Microsoft officials have not publicly confirmed that an Update 2 to Windows 8.1 is in the cards. My sources have said that an Update 2 was a possibility for fall 2014.

Sources of mine had said Microsoft would talk about Windows futures at this week's Build show, offering developers some guidance about what to expect as the company moves toward Windows 9, codenamed "Threshold."

Update: Myerson, in a follow-up blog post, said he was describing futures that would be in "the next iteration of Windows." Again, that's intentionally vague, and could mean either a second Windows 8.1 update or Windows 9/Threshold.

Myerson, in an unusual but welcome return to Microsoft's heritage of offering developers roadmap and futures information, also told Build attendees that Microsoft plans to allow developers to build "Universal Apps" that will work across Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox devices. Given that the Xbox One operating system is based on Windows 8, it's not too surprising that this cross-Windows portability could be possible.

These Universal Apps are applications that are built using a common Windows Runtime that is shared across these different flavors of Windows. Developers will be able to reuse more code but still target their apps for different form factors and experiences. 

Universal apps are a stepping stone on Microsoft's path toward bringing its Windows versions closer together, in terms of programming interfaces, toolsets and user interfaces.

Myerson also disclosed that the company plans to make Windows free in the future for Windows phones, tablets and PCs with screen sizes of 9 inches or smaller, as well as on "Internet of Things" devices. Again, he didn't say when this would be the case and whether he was talking about OEM pricing, end-user pricing or both.

Myerson didn't show the actual design of the new windowed app or Start Menu features. (He did show mockups,  which were supposedly among multiple designs under consideration.) Both of these have been rumored to be Windows 9 deliverables. Whatever the Start Menu does look like, I'm betting it won't be anything like the Start Menu that is part of older Windows versions.

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Tablets, PCs, Windows 8


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Free windows, but for all

    one step in the right direction, but it should be for all devices. Ok I get it, some devices have no competition but just kill the chromebook already and include those budget pcs.
    • Not a big deal

      So free Windows for anything with a screen 9" or smaller? Seriously can you eliminate any more devices Microsoft? For all the crap you put Windows users through with Windows 8. You could make back some points by at least offering a discount on upgrades. Not many running Windows 7 needs to spend $120 or better for Windows 8. I see how the updates have improved it. But for me $25 is all I would spend on a Windows 8 upgrade.
      • 7 TO 8

        I spent the $120 each and have upgraded several Windows 7 machines to Windows 8.X. It is well worth the money. It improvements in performance and stability were amazing. Windows 7 has become bloated with all kinds of upgrades and add-in. Windows 8 is designed for lower power processors. Combined the two and it was better than when we first got the Windows 7 machines.

        They need to change the name. Windows 8.X is tarnished. Just give it new name with a different kind of Start Menu and sales will take off. It is kind of like
        Vista + Backward Compatibility = Windows 7
        all over again.
        Windows + New Start Menu = Windows ????
        will be as popular as Windows 7
        • ROFL

          I'm sorry, but EVERY version of Windows I have ever owned has become bloated and slow OVER TIME. It works great for the first 6 months or so, but it slowly gets worse and worse. Windows 7 was pretty good, but I still found that I had to empty the c:\windows\prefetch (keeping the layout.ini file) every few months to stop some programs from being buggy.

          (Yes, I know, you're NEVER supposed to empty the prefetch. But you know what, EVERY time I started having a problem with a program locking up, getting REALLY slow, or acting odd, I would empty the prefetch folder and everything would be good again. SO I just started getting in the habit if emptying that folder every 3 months)

          Now, I switched to Ubuntu and replaced Windows 7 on this computer more than a year ago. The most I ever have to do is reboot every couple weeks if system performance gets a little slow. That's ALL it takes to restore it to snappy performance just like the first day I installed it.

          Microsoft knows Windows is a dead platform, and the new CEO is no dummy (unlike Balmer). That's why they are pushing so hard to get Office on all the operating systems out there, either through the web or through an App.
          Technical John
          • dead platform?

            Maybe it dead/dying for the consumer, not so much for the enterprise.

            Hm, I haven't noticed the performance decay on Win 7 boxes like I use to get on Win XP. I also do regular system maintenance (cleanup, defrag, etc) so maybe that's why. I also remove all the freaking preload/update helpers that many apps install (can't blame Windows for this one).
          • My Mac does the same thing...

            As for your hard drive, any computer with a magnetic hard drive will do this. My Mac does this also and ubuntu will do this also. Deframentation utilities (whether baked in or added stop this) I'd assume you have a degrag service on ububuntu then. It's impossible not to have speed degridation on a platter HDD no matter what OS you're on.

            I installed perfectdisk and Eset Antivirus and NEVER had any major slowdowns or viruses in 15 years (on over 30 computers)

            I run windows 8 on SSD and NEVER reboot. ;-)

            Unbuntu is good, but far from an enterprise desktop platform, use it for testing on Azure cloud - it's like it's mobile cousin, for the small leagues, not the big leagues when it comes to being a desktop. (otherwise it would be mainstream, rather than marginal)
        • win7 not stable?

          hey I'm no proponent of windows, period. however with that being stated I've still injested many man hours under win7... with rock-solid stability. look. in the good-ole-days windows rightfully took the blame... but since about winXP if fair to say that any instability was/is caused by some hardware bios setting or outright pending hardware failure (which windows does NOT check for). look at ROFL below. linux doesn't slowly take dump... does not slow down with time passing. however he could have kept win7 by running it out of a VM. another issue with all of MS OS's though is their inherent lack fo security due to the NTFS file system (no protection at the FILE level). whereby linux does NOT have this very serious affliction. and of course in the real World linux doesn't run background threads that are dedicated to specifically protecting data against intrusion/injection. Thus as your database grows under windows the system just keeps getting slower and slower. They also use a PageFile (which can also get fragmented) for overrun (linux uses a dedicated partition). Windows also "writes out" data immediately... whereby linux uses all of available RAM (which is much faster than disk (even SSD)... and may not actually write out to hardware until unmount. all of these differences speed up the machine, folks.
      • It was 20 bucks

        If you couldn't have the foresight to buy 8 when it was $20.00 (free for many), then suck it up. MS doesn't need to give 8 away to desktop/laptop users. They own that market. It's the tablet/phone market where they're hurting and that's why they've made this move.
        • Lots of Prices

          I got some for $20. I actually got a few free. I spent $65 for some others. I also spent $120 for some. Actually I have forgotten all the different prices I have paid. I seems to change often. All were worth it.
      • $25 for Windows 8

        You are not in their target audience demographics. They are after people with an IQ over 25
        earl harbeson
        • Microsoft has already passed the threshold.

          Microsoft will never get back the customers they have lost because of their lying, cheating, stealing ways and their stupid arrogance.
          • Never is a long time

            MS has damaged itself and some disaffected users will likely never return to Windows, but MS has an opportunity to win most back.
            John L. Ries
          • Haters Got to be Haters... get a life.

            Where have they lied, cheated or stolen? Stupid arrogance is expecting everyone to drop the most popular platform on the planet (by a long way) because you said so with no valid reason.
      • win8 upgrade?

        how's it an upgrade? if it was free. I rarely run win7 anymore (and NEVER from a direct boot to it). all Microsoft OS's nowadays need to be run from a VM with linux as the host. yeah I know. not many people running MS even knows what I'm talking about here (or they'd be running linux instead). that's what google is for. and no way would I run this OS from a toy.
        • not many people running MS even knows what I'm talking about

          Your modesty is underwhelming. Oh, please GREAT GOD of computing, advise all of us poor benighted, uneducated clods where you dispense more words of your wisdom.
    • kill the chromebook?

      Even if Windows is free, it will not kill the Chromebook. Stop dreaming
      • With the right functionality, it will.

        After all, Chromebook is just a browser and a small SSD, where Windows leads to a real (albeit poor in Windows 8) computing experience.
        • wrong

          Wrong. Even Microsoft knows you are wrong.
      • the chromebook

        Isn't really taking off anyway, so it doesn't need to be killed.
        • Hey

          They can still take credit for it if they play their cards right. That may be what they are going for, making a loud point that 'see, Google can't make stuff as good as us!'
          luke mayson