News from Redmond: Start menu in the future of Windows 8

Microsoft (MSFT) intended Windows 8 to be a revolutionary change in its operating system, but something went awry along the way. Rather than take a stand with a radically new "modern" interface, Microsoft compromised with a hybrid OS that combined the old desktop with a new modern start screen and app ecosystem. And then the company infuriated customers by arbitrarily stripping out core conventions of the desktop like the Start menu. According to Microsoft pundit Paul Thurrott, it might be coming back.

Last week, Paul Thurrott announced that the next version of Windows 8 -- sometimes referred to as "Threshold" or Windows 8.2 -- will have some important updates to appease traditional Windows users. In particular, it is expected to restore the Start menu and modern apps will run in windows on the desktop.

At this point, you might be confused -- Windows 8.1, already available, has restored the traditional Start menu on the desktop, hasn't it? Not exactly. In the wake of Windows 8's release in October 2012, users demanded that Microsoft restore the Start button. Microsoft did exactly that in Windows 8.1, but of course what users really wanted was the Start menu, not just a button to launch the new (and reviled) modern Start Screen.

So today, the only way to get the traditional Start menu is to use of the many Start menu replacement apps, like Start8, Classic Shell, or Start Menu 8.  All that is now expected to change in 2015 when Microsoft releases the next iteration of Windows 8.

Thurrott released some other details as well, such as the fact that Microsoft is tentatively planning three SKUs of Window 8.2: A consumer version based on Windows RT, another consumer version that is based on the x86 code base (and which will probably therefore resemble the Pro version available today) and an Enterprise version.

In some ways, this revelation isn't completely unexpected. After all, Windows 8 hasn't had the impact Microsoft has hoped for -- as of last month, it still hadn't reached 10 percent of the PC market, as measured by NetMarketShare, and  PC sales overall are at their lowest level in five years. Microsoft might want to move forward with the radically new, but users still want the old and familiar.

Photo courtesy Microsoft