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Fresh Start for Windows 8

30 May 2013

After instigating one of the most radical shake-ups of its Windows operating system in recent years, Microsoft has confirmed the much-loved Start button is to returning to the desktop mode’s taskbar for June’s Windows 8.1 ‘preview’ update.

Some commentators appear to be revelling in what appears to be a significant backtrack for a facility that has been in every version of the operating system since Windows 95. Indeed, the UK’s Financial Times described the move as one of the “most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago” – making reference to the soft drinks company’s decision to ditch a new recipe after overwhelming customer dissatisfaction.

We’re not sure it’s quite as earth shattering and fundamental as this: SumProduct recognises the route to innovation can include driving up the odd blind alley or dead end. But it’s not quite the U-turn critics of Windows 8 were hoping for either: it will not offer all the functionality previously associated with the feature, instead taking users to the recently-introduced “Metro” interface, the tile-based touch-friendly Start Screen.

“We’ve improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start ‘tip’ to be the familiar Windows logo,” the company said in a blog post, releasing an image of the new interface concurrently.

Microsoft continues: “The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop”. This is in contrast to the current edition of Windows 8, where the start tip only appears when users hovered their cursor over the lower-left corner of their screen.

For those resistant to change (i.e. many of us!), it gets even better: another modification allows users to boot their computers directly into desktop mode, meaning they can avoid using the Start Screen altogether if they wish.

A preview download of Windows 8.1 will be released to the public in June, and a final version before the end of the year. Both will be free of charge to existing users.