Normally I don’t blog about rumors, but this one is just too good to pass up. Leaked screenshots of Windows 9 show what looks like the return of the much missed Start Menu that has been a staple of Windows computing since Windows 95. Do you really need to know anything more about Windows 9? OK, how about the fact that Microsoft seems to be stepping back from their bold push with the Metro interface – you know, the start-up screen with all the tiles that everyone immediately skips past to use the “old-fashioned” desktop interface.
What this means for you:
For the majority of my clients, I’ve been recommending sticking with Windows 7 unless you have an utterly compelling business reason to get a computer with Windows 8. I’ve been using Windows 8 for the better part of a year, daily, and the only way I find it usable is to boot into desktop mode and essentially use it like a Windows 7 computer. And this is from a guy who lives and breathes technology change! Keep in mind that Windows 8 features a lot of under-the-hood changes that considerably improve every aspect of the OS (security, speed, efficiency etc.), however they are all overshadowed by the changes made to the user interface that were too jarring and counter-productive (and under-utilized) for the average business user. And let’s face it, if you work for a large company, your IT department probably just finished upgrading everyone to Windows 7 only a year or two ago, so you are probably only just now getting over the switch from XP to 7. Just like you skipped over Vista, you may want to give Windows 8 a pass and wait until 2015 for Windows 9.
News has surfaced via various outlets that Microsoft has finalized the “.1” update to Windows 8. This has a two-fold implication for everyone: first, manufacturers can now start to build PCs with 8.1 instead of 8 (which may help flagging sales), and consumers can expect the major update to arrive in October, as originally promised by Microsoft. Among the improvements promised in this update, only two are likely to raise an eyebrow with most folks: the “return” of the Start menu and a more easily accessible Desktop Mode which can now be set to load on bootup. The quotes around return are explained below.
What this means for you:
Based upon dismal sales numbers, it’s likely you’ve been holding off on adopting Windows 8 unless you were forced to through the purchase of a new PC, or you were among the technically adventurous/curious. I’ve warned many of my clients away from taking on the Windows 8 “adventure” primarily because of the significant changes to the user interface. To say the differences are jarring and a productivity killer in the first few months of adoption would only be a slight exaggeration, and depending on how savvy you were with technology, that learning curve was the dealbreaker.
However, now that Microsoft has graciously given us the option to enable “Desktop Mode” by default, new users can ease into the transition using an interface that is essentially the same one they’ve used the past 10-15 years. On the other hand, the return of the “Start Menu” isn’t what you think it might be. Yes, there’s an icon in the lower left, as in past versions of windows, but it merely acts as a shortcut to the Windows 8 “Start Screen”. Granted, Microsoft supposedly has made many improvements to this interface, so it may not be all that bad, but if you want a menu like the one in Windows XP/Vista/7, you’ll need to stick to third-party addons like Pokki.
Though they haven’t officially confirmed it, Microsoft’s update to Windows 8 (codenamed “Blue”) is supposedly set to give users back their “Start” menu and the ability to boot into the more familiar “desktop” mode of the OS, as opposed to using the tile-based interface that Windows 8 boots into currently. According to Microsoft, the impetus to remove the Start menu from Windows 8 was provided by user interface data gathered automatically by previous versions of Windows, but it’s fairly clear that whatever the data shows, customer feedback has been fairly pointed about the lack of the Start menu: Users want it back.
What this means for you:
The developer preview of Windows 8.1 is set to be released in June of this year, and should be publicly available in August, according to Microsoft’s timeline, so we won’t know for sure for at least another month as to whether Windows users will actually have their wishes granted. Many analysts point out that it’s likely the Start menu won’t be what everyone remembers – current opinion is the returning menu will actually only be a button to launch the Windows 8 Start page, ie. the screenful of tiles that everyone’s been avoiding by switching to “desktop” mode, which emulates the Windows interface from version 7 on back. These concessions are likely in response to lackluser sales figures and slumping PC sales, possibly in response to the general public’s reluctance to move to Windows 8.