If Microsoft does end up reintroducing a Start Menu to a future release of Windows, as sources are hinting, does it necessarily mean that menu will be identical to what exists now? And if it's not, does that defeat the purpose?
I've seen a number of commentors wondering why Microsoft might reintroduce the Start Menu, since the Windows 8.x Start screen (the tiled interface) was designed to be a new representation of the Start Menu. The short answer is to help existing Windows users -- specifically, the more casual, non-power-user types -- figure out how to navigate Windows 8 without tears or fears.
Windows 8, even with the positive changes Microsoft made with the 8.1 release, still presents a usability hurdle for some who are familiar with older versions of Windows. Even if it can be mastered relatively quickly, Windows 8 works and looks different enough to keep some from considering the move away from their more familiar and productive Windows variants. And Microsoft wants Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 users to upgrade, not hold back or switch to a totally different platform because they are worried about Windows 8's learning curves and/or retraining costs.
Since Thurrott's initial December 10 report on the return of the Start Menu, I've heard from my own contacts that this is highly likely to happen. Microsoft is, indeed, highly likely to bring back Start Menu. Supposedly it's being called internally "mini-Start," (as it won't be a full-screen Start Menu like in Windows 8), one of my contacts said.
Next-to-nothing, my contacts claim, has been determined by the team as to what this new Menu will look like. Will it include the same current category list (Documents, Pictures, Music, etc.) as Microsoft's current Start Menu on Windows 7? Will it be a menu of Metro-Style tiled apps? No tiles? Will it interact with the Start button that's on the Charms Bar in Windows 8 in some way? No word.
I'd assume the Start Menu will be a Desktop thing, like the 8.1 Start Button is. Maybe it will simply provide users with a mini version of the list of all the apps installed on their Windows 8.x machines. I'd expect it to be designed to work decently with touch, even though from what both Thurrott and I have heard, the primary target audience for the new Start Menu will be those using Windows 8.x with keyboards and mice.
I know haters are gonna keep hating on this idea. But assume it's happening: How do you think Microsoft should design the new Start Menu?