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Windows 8.1 Start button may not offer actual Start menu

The much-rumored Start button may simply lead users back to the Start screen, sources tell The Verge.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
The Windows 8 desktop.
The Windows 8 desktop. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Windows 8 users hoping for a return of the traditional Start button and Start menu in Windows 8.1 may be disappointed.

Rumors have floated recently that Microsoft may revive the familiar Start button in the Windows 8.1 update scheduled for release later this year. A new report today from The Verge claims that "sources familiar with Microsoft's plans" have confirmed the return of the Start button.

But -- and there always seems to be a "but" -- the new Start button apparently will not trigger a traditional Start menu but instead simply bounce users back to the Start screen, according to The Verge's sources. If true, that means the button would serve the same role as the Start screen thumbnail that appears when you move your mouse to the lower left "hot" corner.

Excuse me? Assuming The Verge's sources are correct, I guess such a Start button would benefit people who don't know they can access the Start screen thumbnail by hovering over the left corner. Otherwise, I don't see the advantage in a Start button that just brings you back to the Start screen.

Microsoft reportedly killed the Start button and Start menu from Windows 8 based on "telemetry" obtained from its Customer Experience Improvement Program. The company is now eyeing a return of the button for Windows 8.1 as a result of user feedback, according to The Verge.

But what about the user feedback clamoring for a true Start menu? There's a reason why Start menu replacements such as Classic Shell, Pokki for Windows 8, and Start8 have proven so popular. People clearly at least want the option to be able to access their applications, folders, and settings via an old-school but reliable menu.

Offering a Start button that just leads you back to the Start screen seems like a half-hearted effort at best. Or course, it's not fair yet to criticize Microsoft based simply on rumors of such a feature. But if the report is true, I think Microsoft needs to listen a bit more closely to its user feedback.

CNET contacted Microsoft for comment and will update the story if the company responds.