Will 'normal' Windows users want a Start button for Win 8?

SweetLabs joins a handful of other companies offering to bring the more familiar Start menu/Button back to Windows 8.

Readers of this blog -- other than my mom (hi, mom!) -- are not normal, regular users. Sorry, you/we are not.

"Normal" users are people who get their work (and play) done on Windows, but who are not techies or those who write about them. They are the people who are not likely to have done any real testing of Windows 8 so far. And they are the people who are either going to love or hate Windows 8 when they get to use it in retail stores for the first time next week.

They are the "regular" people like Lockergnome's Chris Pirillo's dad -- a video of whom attempting to use a test build of Windows 8 went viral. Whether you consider Pirillo's video a page-view stunt or not (I am in the "not" camp), you might want to check out another video of his created in conjunction with startup SweetLabs.

This time, Pirillo captured the reactions of various folks in the University District area of Seattle last month who got to try Windows 8 for their first time. These users were checking it out on laptops with keyboards. Their reactions run from interest, to puzzlement, to nervous laughter (in the case of one woman who identified herself as an admin who is quite conversant with Windows).

Check it out:

What's SweetLabs' interest/involvement here?

The startup, which is backed by both Google Ventures and Intel Capital, makes a product called Pokki. It's an app store for Windows 8 desktop/PC users that allows users to download and run "hundreds" of custom-built apps, some written by SweetLabs and others from third-party developers, on Windows 8.

The app store part of SweetLabs' mission is totally uninteresting to me, as I'd think it would be to many other Windows users who don't really need more games, entertainment, and other basic apps for Windows 8.

But SweetLabs also is introducing as of today a new version of Pokki for Windows 8 that includes a reimagined (yes, I went there) Start menu and button for Windows 8.

There are other Start button add-ons for Windows 8 already, including Classic Shell and Stardock's Start8. (It also looks like Samsung is going to offer a downloadable Start Menu option for its Windows 8 laptops, too.) Pokki offers another way to make Windows 8 more familiar and useable to the casual/normal Windows user. It's not just your Windows 7 Start menu pasted onto Windows 8.

Pokki for Windows 8, a free downloadable application, includes the so-called Pokki Menu. People can just use the menu and not the app store, if they so choose, populating the menu with apps already installed on their PCs. The Pokki Menu also includes a centralized notification center, an iPhone/Android smartphonelike home screen for organizing apps, and an app recommendation service.

As I've said before, while I think a Start Button-free Windows 8 and Windows RT are fine for touch tablets, I'm not sold on the new Microsoft interface on PCs, desktops, and laptops. And yes, your mileage may vary. We all use our PCs differently. Choice is good, people!

It should be very interesting to see what the "normals" think of Windows 8 starting next week. If you're the kind of person intrigued by the new and unfamiliar, you might love it. If you're in the who-moved-my-cheese camp -- or the Office Ribbon Haters Club -- you may not. I'm hoping we see something good when it comes to whatever brochure-ware Microsoft and its partners will (I'm hearing) make available with new Windows 8 PCs to help familiarize users with all the new gestures, shortcuts, and navigational changes....

This story originally appeared on ZDNet under the headline "Will 'normal' Windows users want a Start button for Windows 8?"

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About the author

    Mary Jo Foley has been a tech journalist for almost 30 years. She is editor of ZDNet's "All About Microsoft" blog. She authored "Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era" and co-hosts the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT Network.

     

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