Windows 8.1 will finally bring back the Start menu

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft screwed up with Windows 8. Previous Windows users hate it and new users are confused by its dual interfaces (Modern UI and Desktop mode). But there's good news on the way. With new CEO Satya Nadella in the saddle, Microsoft is on a new course to correct its mistakes and turn the Windows 8 ship around.

The single most annoying feature about Windows 8 is that it favors the new Start screen with the Live Tiles user interface and sidelines the desktop interface. The Modern UI (formerly known as Metro) is a good attempt by Microsoft to unify its mobile, PC and Xbox interfaces, but it does so at the expense of usability for the million of Windows users who don't care about a touchscreen-friendly PC operating system.

It's no surprise that Windows 8's half-baked desktop mode and lack of the familiar Start menu is one major reason why users running older versions of Windows have been reluctant to upgrade.

At BUILD 2014, Microsoft's annual developer conference, the company announced a renewed focus on giving its users an operating system they actually want to use. A future Windows 8.1 update will bring back the classic Start menu, but this time around, it'll also have Live Tiles integrated into it. As you can see in the top photo, the new Start menu gives bite-sized information at a glance when the Windows/Start button is clicked. It combines the best of the old and the new in a way that is fresh, but also familiar.

The return of the Start menu is only act one of Microsoft's plan to win back customers. New computers shipping with Windows 8.1 will also have the ability to boot straight to the desktop. Previously, Windows 8.1 computers were forced to boot to the Start screen (unless you changed that setting yourself).

It's not easy for a company to admit it dropped the ball. Under Nadella, Microsoft appears to be making the right moves. Last week it was Office for iPad and this week it's the the announcement of the return of the Start menu, and universal apps that work across Windows Phone smartphones and tablets, Windows 8 PCs, and Xbox One. Instead of obsessively trying to become Apple and Google, Microsoft is finally bringing its core strengths back to its customers. And, that's a Microsoft we can root for again.

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