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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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. (Winbeta.org 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?

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