• Why Microsoft killed the Windows Start button

    Microsoft claims it took the controversial decision to remove the Start button from the traditional Windows desktop because people had stopped using it.
    The lack of a Start button on the Windows 8 desktop has been one of the most divisive elements of the new user interface.
    It had been widely assumed that Microsoft removed the Start button to force people to familiarise themselves with the new Metro Start screen, which is the centrepiece of the Windows 8 overhaul.
    However, speaking to PC Pro at TechEd in Amsterdam, a senior Microsoft executive told us that the old Start menu had already fallen out of favour with users of Windows 7.

    "Weíd seen the trend in Windows 7," said Chaitanya Sareen, principal program manager at Microsoft, referring to the telemetry gathered by the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program. "When we evolved the taskbar we saw awesome adoption of pinning [applications] on the taskbar. We are seeing people pin like crazy. And so we saw the Start menu usage dramatically dropping, and that gave us an option. Weíre saying 'look, Start menu usage is dropping, what can we do about it? What can we do with the Start menu to revive it, to give it some new identity, give it some new power?'"

    "So Iím a desktop user, I pin the browser, Explorer, whatever my apps are. I donít go the Start menu as often. If youíre going to the Start screen now, weíre going to unlock a whole new set of scenarios, or you can choose not to go there, stay in the desktop, and itís still fast. You canít beat the taskbar."

    Sareen also claims that people are taking advantage of keyboard shortcuts to open applications, instead of resorting to the Start menu. "Press the Windows key and 1 and youíre already in IE [if IE is the first item pinned to your taskbar]. Itís so fast."

    Metro for desktops

    Sareen was also quick to dismiss criticism that the Metro interface is better suited to touchscreen devices than laptops and desktops.
    Demonstrations during the day had seen two Microsoft presenters struggle to make gesture controls work on laptop trackpads, with the Start screen intermittently failing to scroll when the presenters swiped two fingers across the trackpad, for instance. Sareen insisted that the touchpad drivers were still "very, very early" and were "still being refined".

    He also claimed that the Metro interface "really works well with the mouse and keyboard", highlighting features such as the option to search for applications simply by starting to type its name on the Metro Start screen.
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. mjmacky's Avatar
      mjmacky -
      Open for comments
    1. duke0102's Avatar
      duke0102 -
      It seems like they know about the heavy criticism but are burying there heads in the sand and saying "we're right, you're wrong". I paid for Win 7 and a won't be buying Win 8 with Metro unless forced like with the DirectX shenanigans.
    1. eyekey's Avatar
      eyekey -
      yeah... no start button..i wouldn't take that crap for free.
    1. Appzalien's Avatar
      Appzalien -
      I detect a hint of truth here but I believe it was probably an in house "awesome adoption of pinning [applications]" that would have gone something like the following.

      1. MS employee's are required to adopt Win 7
      2. MS notices employee's still using the start button
      3. A memo goes out to stop using the start button and use pinning instead
      4. A questionare is passed out asking employee's if they are still using the start button
      5. For fear of reprisal the employee's lye

      I find it hard to believe that any MS Corporate Goons go around watching users not using the start button except in house, so this explanation seems weird if not a total fabrication or at the least a very generalized pool of users.

      If people don't want the start button why are they complaining so loud? Stupid Microsoft Corporate Goons!
    1. Xbox_360's Avatar
      Xbox_360 -
      Yeah this just does not add up at all. First it's a very tiny button, so what if a lot of people don't use it? Here is a thought let people enable or disable it, don't just take it away. I do not pin stuff at all it just looks messy, and now instead of a button you have to go to the Metro screen which is made for touch screens. I have 8 preview on my netbook and I hate Metro a lot, it is more of a pain to use it with a mouse and keyboard then a touch screen. What they should be doing is allowing people to turn on/off Metro and the start button.
    1. attackdog's Avatar
      attackdog -
      I like my start button, I don't like to pin things. I have one thing pinned which is Firefox.
    1. manker's Avatar
      manker -
      All this talk of the all-important start button has made me realise that I don't actually use it much.

      I decided to stick with XP a while ago because I didn't like Win7's start menu layout.
      It used to be that I relied on it but I guess at the time I didn't realise that I've got so used to XP - after however many years - that I have pinned everything I use regularly to the shortcut menu next to the start button and use that instead.

      It makes sense, to me, to use that shortcut menu rather than navigating the start menu because it's quicker.
      Perhaps these chaps at Microsoft are on to something, after all, and perhaps people are resisting because no-one likes change unless it was their idea.

      I've got a touch-screen PC that I hardly use, so I'm probably going to give Win8 a go once the 0day monkeys have worked out the bugs for Microsoft.
    1. mkil5's Avatar
      mkil5 -
      Well looks like I will be staying with W7. We don't need Microsoft "Apple'ing" their stuff up.
    1. Homer_S's Avatar
      Homer_S -
      Windows 8 only makes sense for a touch screen, I'd wait for Windows 9 when they get it right. Stick with Windows 7 unless you have a touchscreen, that's what I'm doing. Except for work, I'm thinking people here roll their own PCs anyway.
    1. luv2blze's Avatar
      luv2blze -
      I agree. I work in IT support for several high end hedge fund companies and most of them JUST recently migrated to 7. It's gonna be extremely difficult to have people who broker million dollar deals to re-learn windows. From the trends I'm seeing, more people are going to Apple like I've never seen before. I've done the beta and release candidate and the fact that you have to "hover" your mouse to get to certain menus is ridiculous. I agree that it makes sense for phones and tablets, but desktops and laptops? They will increase Apple's Imac and Mac Pro's and all Macbooks. When Apple upgrades their OS, they keep a lot of the old user interface, and it's smart. I do hate Apple, but Windows 8 is gonna make them look a lot better.
    1. real-lunatic's Avatar
      real-lunatic -
      what a lot of crap

      i tried windows 8 on my laptop and it really sucks. in 30 minutes i was back on Windows 7

      i really don't think W8 gonna brake throug. Why change something that works in to something most people don't want
    1. nless00's Avatar
      nless00 -
      I'm not using win8 either just want the task manager in win 7
    1. rdtphd's Avatar
      rdtphd -
      Quote Originally Posted by real-lunatic View Post
      what a lot of crap

      i tried windows 8 on my laptop and it really sucks. in 30 minutes i was back on Windows 7

      i really don't think W8 gonna brake throug. Why change something that works in to something most people don't want
      30 minutes! You are my hero. I made it 10 minutes and knew it was not personalized to the experience I wanted and was back to 7
    1. chaos7979's Avatar
      chaos7979 -
      "That is ridiculous. Most everyone uses the start button if one has more than ten programs that are used on a regular basis.
    1. tesco's Avatar
      tesco -
      Quote Originally Posted by manker View Post
      All this talk of the all-important start button has made me realise that I don't actually use it much.

      I decided to stick with XP a while ago because I didn't like Win7's start menu layout.
      It used to be that I relied on it but I guess at the time I didn't realise that I've got so used to XP - after however many years - that I have pinned everything I use regularly to the shortcut menu next to the start button and use that instead.

      It makes sense, to me, to use that shortcut menu rather than navigating the start menu because it's quicker.
      Perhaps these chaps at Microsoft are on to something, after all, and perhaps people are resisting because no-one likes change unless it was their idea.

      I've got a touch-screen PC that I hardly use, so I'm probably going to give Win8 a go once the 0day monkeys have worked out the bugs for Microsoft.
      The start menu is an obsolete concept.
      In ubuntu's Unity, and Gnome Shell (both are linux desktops) the menus are phased out with "docks" in their place (hidden inside an overlay that appears when mouse is moved to the top left corner in gnome shell, and somethign similar can be done in unity) that hold your most commonly used apps, and a search system for finding the other apps that don't fit into the dock (or that you just dont want in your dock).
      In real life usage, I find that I'm rarely using more than a few programs and using teh search for those rarely used apps is far quicker than navigating through start menus anyway.

      Even in windows7 you've got something similar. Pin the most frequently used apps into your taskbar, and for those infrequent ones there is a search function built into teh start menu (unfortunately not as intuitive as the one in unity/gnome due to it returning too many irrelevant results (help, uninstall, etc.).
    1. killuminati96's Avatar
      killuminati96 -
      I guess it doesn't matter as long as it's possible to easily access programs & turn off the machine. I don't like pushing the power button to do it. Those things tend to break over time.
    1. unclemilty74's Avatar
      unclemilty74 -
      This is indeed bullshit... Microsoft doesn't know how to give users options and noe they're doing our thinking for us by completely taking the possibility of a third-party developer taking the reigns on a replacement option. You know, MICRO-soft, I really liked that pinning idea you loved so much, but it was better before when it was first called the "Desktop" and then the "QUick Launch toolbar", which was another piece of MS-BS when you took it out by default in Win7... Oh yeah, we quickly found the way to re-establish it. JUst let us have the QUick-Launch and teach users how to use it properly instead of wasting hours removing code.
    1. digmen1's Avatar
      digmen1 -
      I've been on Windows 7 for a year and love it.

      I did not know what pinning was.

      Most of the programs I use a lot are on my desktop as shortcuts.

      But yes, I hardly ever use the Start Button.
      Mick Jagger won't be impressed.