Microsoft's Windows 8 Plan B(lue): Bring back the Start button, boot to desktop

Microsoft's Windows 8 Plan B(lue): Bring back the Start button, boot to desktop

Summary: Microsoft may be moving toward bringing back the Start Button and allowing users to boot straight to the desktop with its coming Windows 8.1 release later this year.


What if Microsoft relented and granted users who are lukewarm about Windows 8 two of their biggest requests: Allow those who want to boot straight to the desktop, and bring back the Start button with Windows Blue, a.k.a. Windows 8.1?


Though supposedly not part of the original plan for Blue, these two UI options are looking more likely.

Reports from a couple of different forums from this past weekend raised the possibility that Microsoft might be moving toward allowing users to skip booting into the Metro-Style Start menu and instead start their PCs in desktop mode. ( noted the thread about this on April 14.)

One of my sources confirmed this is now looking like the plan and added that Microsoft is also considering bringing back the Start button as an option with Windows Blue.

It's not 100 percent sure that either/both of these options will be baked into the final Blue release, which is expected to be released to manufacturing on or around August 2013. I guess we'll have a better indication once the next milestone build, a.k.a. the Blue Preview, leaks — or when the public version of that preview goes live around June.

"Until it ships, anything can change," said my source, who requested anonymity.

Microsoft officials have publicly maintained that users are not confused by the new Windows 8 interface and that they find it "easy to start to learn," especially on touch screens. I, myself, have adapted to the new UI well on my touch-screen Surface RT, but like a number of business users, I find the new UI more of a curse on non-touch-screen machines. As a result, I am still running Windows 7 on two of my three Windows devices.

If Microsoft does end up adding the Start Button and boot to desktop options to Blue, it won't be the first time in recent history that the Windows client team has gone back and changed the Windows UI based on user dissatisfaction. Remember how users balked over the way Windows Vista first implemented User Account Control (UAC), the "most hated feature" in a hated OS release? Microsoft ended up changing direction with UAC in Windows 7, based on beta tester outcry.

What do you think? Would adding these two user-requested options soften resistance to Windows 8, especially among Microsoft's much-needed business user camp? Or would this be too little, too late?

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows 8 in Business


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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A wise move on their part...

    I guess too many people voted with their wallet on the Metro interface. It does not work for me on a desktop or laptop that is not touch enabled, so it should have the intelligence to load on touch-enabled systems and go back to desktop otherwise. Plus since the underlying Windows is the rock solid 7, this could finally get people off XP, which just worked.
    • perhaps 'puters aint your thing

      have been using Windows 8 since the beta in February 2012. I don't have a laptop nor a touch screen. Works just fine. pretty simple? But heck maybe I'm just a super genius since so many seem to have so much difficulty. Perhaps a Mensa test should be required.
      • Condecension is not a good way to get your point across

        I really dislike how many people assume they are smarter, or just simply superior to their fellow computer users because they like the newest idea to come from a software company.

        Did it ever occur to you that some people just don't like the new layout? I've also used Windows 8 since the developer preview, and I know it pretty much inside and out, but it only resides on one of my computers at home so I am conversant on the system. The rest of my computers remain windows 7, or linux of some flavor, (just for reference, that totals about 7 boxes among family, and media servers.)

        Windows 8 as it stands is just not something I prefer on a personal level, either as touch or non-touch. A hybrid style ends up being maligned due to it's inability to capitalize on any of it's strengths. Tablets and touch centric devises have different needs than do desktops.

        Tablets and touch devices are going to cut into desktop sales as many people bought desktops just to consume media. It was overkill. The desktop was too much muscle for what many people really needed or wanted. The desktop is not going away, but it's market is going to shrink for a while until tablets have replaced all the redundant PC's out there.

        I personally think that the PC market will shrink to at least a third of what it is now in the consumer space, and that in certain areas a tablet will work great for many business uses as well.

        I don't think this is the end of Microsoft any time soon, far too many systems used in education and business were written specifically for MS platforms. The expenses of switching are always prohibitive. But I do think that Microsoft's role as the dominant force in computing as a whole is done.
        • Condescention

          Wow, a well thought out post instead of a high-school knee jerk response for a change!
          Max Peck
          • Not something you find often, is it?

            At least not on ZDNet...
          • I agree.

            At least that post wasnt just a bunch of sour grapes drivel without sounding honest. This post at least kept it real enough to be taken seriously and how can you not at least respect someones opinion when they give an honest opinion and state it as "their opinion".

            Take note:

            "Windows 8 as it stands is just not something I prefer on a personal level"

            "I personally think that the PC market will shrink"

            "I don't think this is the end of Microsoft any time soon"

            I dont think, and I personally think, are statements clearly saying this is MY OPINION. Not just "this Windows 8 is garbage and Microsoft is dead meat".

            It makes people want to read it, give it some respect and while anyone can question someone as to 'why' they feel a certain way, you sure cant just say you’re wrong about how you feel about this.

            Everyone with some experience or knowledge about the situation has opinions, expressing them calmly as opinions sure goes way farther than stating them as if they are some kind of decree the public already acknowledges at large.

            Such as "Everyone HATES Windows 8".
        • Separate but Obsolete

          So, you see the world as silo's, with PC's and Tablets divided in inseparable containers.

          Microsoft doesn't see it this way, obviously. When Google merges Chrome with Android, you'll see they agree with Microsoft (which sucks for both of the Chrome fans). When Apple merges IOS with Mac OS, you'll see it there (and all those obsolete Intel Mac owners will feel the pain). And, yes, those both of those days are coming.

          Microsoft could go on making people happy......and we'd still be starting apps in the Program Manager and using a complex menu system in Office. Well, actually, Microsoft wouldn't exist if they did that. Windows 8 isn't perfect, but it's doing the right things to keep the company relevant in 5 years and in 20, and it takes guts to do that when it ticks off people here and now.

          Look -- the OS will merge. The first version is never easy. I don't agree with Ad Hominem arguments, but this is a case where a lot of people just don't get it......yet.
          • thoughts

            "Microsoft could go on making people happy......and we'd still be starting apps in the Program Manager and using a complex menu system in Office. "

            Making people happy is part of the business. They should exist to serve their customers - what good is creating a beautiful looking UI if nobody buys it?

            I seriously don't want to live in a world where businesses ignore their customers.

            "and we'd still be starting apps in the Program Manager"

            You actually could until Windows XP Service Pack 2. Microsoft actually included a configuration switch to allow you to do so for quite some time.

            And it should be noted that neither Windows 9x nor Microsoft Office had discoverability issues - in fact, the ribbon was designed to make it easier to discover new things, not harder. Windows 8 is actually the opposite of Office 2007 in this regard.
          • ....and Kodak makes great film

            No, your job in business isn't to make every customer happy -- it's to make the best product. Many companies get left behind because they don't see how things are evolving. Microsoft could easily get stuck in a highly profitable rut of making what makes people happy, and not exist in a decade.

            I haven't had any desire to go back to Program Manager (or start button), but thanks for the info.
          • And you won't have to.

            We both get our way, and MS will have both of us as customers. /That's/ called profitability.
          • Start button programs show how easy it is to add options back to Win 8

            I have Windows 8 on my laptop (since the early previews in 2011/2012 and now the release version). After all that time I was not happy with the UI changes and how they affected the way I use my computer to accomplish work. Then I read up on the different apps that add the Start Button and boot to desktop options back to Win 8. I ended up with 'Start8' which was worth the $4.99 it cost me. Turns out it was really easy to add the Start button back to the desktop, to boot directly into the desktop, to get rid of the hot edges, and program keys to use IF & WHEN I want to use the Metro/Modern UI (which is rare). I don't notice any performance hit and so far (after 6 months or more using it) I haven't experienced any programs. So if MS claims that it's not feasible to add switches to Win 8 that give the end user the option to decide how THEY want to use their computer, then they're lying to you.
          • Corrections

            Typo: I meant to say "I haven't experienced any problems" (with Start8).
          • Start Menu and boot to desktop without 3rd party apps

            Win 8 has start menu as a toolbar function. to use it, you need to change settings in file explorer so that system files are shown. You then change the permissions of the start menu folder to allow read access to all. Right click taskbar area and create toolbar, and select the start menu folder. Minimise this toolbar and drag it to the left of the quick launch items. When you click on the expand arrow, you have a cascading start menu to your programs.
            To get win8 to boot into desktop, use the task scheduler and make it open a desktop app with trigger on startup. I make it open file explorer which I always open anyway. You will not see the modern Start screen, bang straight in desktop with file explorer ready to go.
            Windows is very powerful and customizable. I have never used ANY version of windows (or any OS at all) as is out-of-the-box after installation and windows 8 is no exception. So I don't understand when people whinge about windows 8 when they have obviously not put any effort into using it.
          • Classic Shell

            i've used classic shell for all of the users who have bought new computers with Windows 8 but kept the link to "Metro", and if you like that and get used to that you can uninstall this program. Most users like Metro if they are using a touch based ultrabook or MS tablet but on laptops and dekstops i've seen people who like the start menu better.
            Eric Dodson
          • Business 101

            Business succeed when they make money not innovation. Many "better products" have been horrible disasters in Business. A poor product that connects with the customer will always beat a superior product that doesn't.

            A good examples of this is the handheld gaming consoles (Nintendo Gameboy era). The NeoGeo, Atari, and Sega system were far superior products technologically, but that is not what customers wanted. Now where are these companies? Same place Microsoft is headed if they don't listen to customers.
          • Maybe IBM hired a witch doctor!

            Getting back at MS for jamming them on OS/2!
          • Ah OS/2…

            Now that was a nice OS, I loved developing on that before I moved to Windows NT etc…

            I think you are on to something here, my bets would be either some voodoo magic going on or an insider job (i.e. destroy MS from the inside).

            No other sensible explanation exists for what the heck is going on in their heads coming up with this freak show of an OS.
          • OS/2

            At the time I thought that the best part of OS/2 was the cat chasing the cursor.

            At the time Vista came out I was really shocked at how bad it was, and I actually thought that a decent operating system was never going to return. Vista was a bad experience all around, which is why I was really surprised to find that Microsoft had released a really good, XP-like Windows 7, a high-powered operating system for someone who wants to get things done.

            Then, of course, Microsoft returned to its usual theme and came out with the childlike and nearly unusable Windows 8. It was like seeing Vista, only naked and showing every possible disgusting characteristic of a company trying to manipulate the minds of the masses.

            Now however, we are hearing that Microsoft is actually beginning to consider turning Windows 8 into what it could and should have been all along, an operating system similar to Windows 7, but BETTER.

            I should mention also that this change will save all of us a lot of money, because as we move away from Windows 8's user interface, we can stop buying crayons to go along with it. Time to get out the old pens and pencils again and going back to work!
          • "nearly unusable Windows 8"

            So, assuming you choose to ignore the Win8 Metro/Modern UI & apps and just use traditional desktop apps, how is Win8 "unusable"?

            Since on your desktop, you no doubt pin your most frequently used apps to the taskbar and/or pin shortcuts to the desktop itself, you'll most likely rarely ever use the start screen.

            So, again, how does this make Win8 "unusable"?

            I'll grant you that on the desktop/laptop, especially non-touch-sensitive screens, the Win8 Metro/Modern apps aren't yet a slam-dunk home-run, but on touch-screen devices, Metro/Modern apps are fabulously usable compared to desktop apps.

            Nobody is saying you have to stop using your desktop apps when you use Win8 (especially on your desktop/laptop) but if you're saying that MS should abandon/remove Metro, then you're eliminating Windows' utility on tablets and that is something that is unreasonable and unrealistic.
          • Simple.

            So, assuming you choose to ignore the Win8 Metro/Modern UI & apps and just use traditional desktop apps, how is Win8 "unusable"?
            Simple. The lack of confidence nor desire to use such an OS when They're are perfectly fine alternatives. like Win 7.
            It's unusable, because it's obtrusive.. An Os Is A Platform, to me to run things on to get work done. And even For entertainment I want to watch a movie OK I wan't to listen to music great, but jumping into an in your face abstract thing that you can clumsily mouse around or get all greasy and smuged is like like hiring Picasso to paint the signs on the men and womens public restroom doors. An OS is supposed to Stay out of the way and facilitate the function of the software that allows for production, Not become the focus of frustration over trivial things, that matter, because day in day out we have clicked on a button. It's habit, Flashy I don't want Low decoration, High performance I wan't "Bling is as Dead as any of P-Diddle daddy whatever claim to actually having talent."
            Steve Sleep