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4/22/2014
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Windows 8 Start Menu Coming This Fall?

Microsoft may restore the Start menu to Windows 8 and launch a cloud-based version of the OS by this fall.

Windows 8.1 Update 1: 10 Key Changes
Windows 8.1 Update 1: 10 Key Changes
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Update only a few weeks ago, but another revision is reportedly already slated for this fall. The update will purportedly include a new Start menu like the one Microsoft Operating System Group leader Terry Myerson teased earlier this month. More provocatively, the update could also introduce a free, cloud-based version of Windows.

Myerson offered no timetable for the new Start menu, but according to Russian blogger WZor, who accurately leaked a range of Windows 8.1 Update details, the next update will arrive by this fall. Citing anonymous insiders, ZDNet reporter Mary Jo Foley subsequently said the new Windows iteration could launch as soon as August. Either way, the update would represent the third significant Windows addition within a rolling year, starting with Windows 8.1 last fall.

WZor claims the Start menu will behave differently on touch and non-touch devices, and connects the distinctions to a second-generation Modern interface. Critics blasted Windows 8 for shoehorning that interface alongside the traditional desktop UI. Windows 8.1 Update includes several features to smooth over remaining tensions, but based on what InformationWeek readers have written, not everyone is persuaded.

[Windows is evolving, but what about Office? Read Microsoft Office: 4 Changes, Explained.]

Even so, Microsoft has sprinkled a few tea leaves that speak to future desktop-Modern UI dynamics. The Start menu Myerson unveiled included not only a Windows 7-style list of applications and destinations, but also a new column of Modern apps. A since-deleted Microsoft Research video surfaced this month that demonstrated a new Start screen concept that integrates desktop apps into the Live Tile experience. The Live Tiles themselves also included new features, such as the ability to view one's email inbox within the tile itself, without launching into full-screen mode.

Microsoft previewed its new Start menu concept earlier this month.
Microsoft previewed its new Start menu concept earlier this month.

It's not clear if the update will include windowed Modern apps that run on the desktop -- another eventual addition that Myerson confirmed earlier this month. Likewise, it's not clear what the update will be called -- Windows 8.2, Windows 8.1 Update 2, or something else. Foley's sources maintain Microsoft won't launch Windows 9 until 2015.

WZor also claimed Microsoft will debut a cloud-based version of Windows 8.1. Like a cross between Google's Chrome OS model and Microsoft's Office 365 strategy, the cloud version of Windows will allegedly offer basic capabilities for free but require a subscription for fuller features. While it's unknown exactly how such a product would work, cloud-based Windows products would fit within the company's recent effort to move traditionally client-side assets, such as Office, into the cloud.

Previous Windows 9 rumors indicated Microsoft might restructure its Windows lineup to more effectively cater to different classes of customers. A rapid-release cycle might help Microsoft make strides with consumers, for example, but that's not necessarily true for its bread-and-butter enterprise customers. Likewise, free OS licenses might help Microsoft play from behind in the consumer-driven tablet and smartphone markets, but the company isn't likely to stop charging for lucrative commercial licenses.

It's worth noting that, though WZor has reliably leaked Windows information in the past, he went offline briefly in March, when former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo was arrested for passing confidential information to a blogger. Many speculated at the time that WZor's online vanishing act and Kibkalo's arrest were related.

That intrigue aside, Microsoft appears to be barreling toward the next version of Windows. Will Win 8's critics finally upgrade once the Start menu is restored? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Emerging standards for hybrid clouds and converged datacenters promise to break vendors' proprietary hold. Also in the Lose The Lock-In issue of InformationWeek: The future datacenter will come in a neat package (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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AsokS489
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AsokS489,
User Rank: Strategist
4/24/2014 | 11:29:45 PM
Re: Like I said, Windows 8.1 Update hasn't persuaded everyone
Microsoft is in trash mode big time right now: Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 (with a different version number yet, actually meaning a different operating system), then "Update 1", and then Update 2, all in a period of a year, and using new terminology for what an update is, using multiple different methods for updating, and with some VERY important updates NOT being delivered by WSUS, and all in a period of a year. And soon there will be Windows 9. Three operating system versions and two major "updates"  in two years means FIVE different platform variations in TWO years, and no real improvement in terms of corporate productively, in fact, productivity has regressed for any enterprise foolish enough to embrace Windows 8 on the PC. Oh, yeah, and I'm not even counting Windows RT and its variations.

This unnecessary upheaval is causing both the enterprise and software developers to be going out of their minds. Thus Microsoft is busily obliterating their two big monopolistic advantages: stability and application ubiquity. Software developers are fleeing Microsoft in droves to develop for iOS and Android instead, and the enterprise will soon be fleeing Windows as much as possible, probably to a combination of Android, iOS  and Linux.

Good heavens, it's amazing to see such a megalithic monopoly self-destruct so rapidly and so completely. Heck, it took IBM almost 10 years to sink this badly before they arose from their own ashes.
AsokS489
50%
50%
AsokS489,
User Rank: Strategist
4/24/2014 | 11:29:42 PM
Re: Like I said, Windows 8.1 Update hasn't persuaded everyone
Microsoft is in trash mode big time right now: Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 (with a different version number yet, actually meaning a different operating system), then "Update 1", and then Update 2, all in a period of a year, and using new terminology for what an update is, using multiple different methods for updating, and with some VERY important updates NOT being delivered by WSUS, and all in a period of a year. And soon there will be Windows 9. Three operating system versions and two major "updates"  in two years means FIVE different platform variations in TWO years, and no real improvement in terms of corporate productively, in fact, productivity has regressed for any enterprise foolish enough to embrace Windows 8 on the PC. Oh, yeah, and I'm not even counting Windows RT and its variations.

This unnecessary upheaval is causing both the enterprise and software developers to be going out of their minds. Thus Microsoft is busily obliterating their two big monopolistic advantages: stability and application ubiquity. Software developers are fleeing Microsoft in droves to develop for iOS and Android instead, and the enterprise will soon be fleeing Windows as much as possible, probably to a combination of Android, iOS  and Linux.

Good heavens, it's amazing to see such a megalithic monopoly self-destruct so rapidly and so completely. Heck, it took IBM almost 10 years to sink this badly before they arose from their own ashes.
Li Tan
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50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/24/2014 | 4:36:03 AM
Re: Like I said, Windows 8.1 Update hasn't persuaded everyone
To me Windows 8.1 is good but not something dramatic. Its usability is fine but personally I prefer to get back the start menu. Now I switch from destktop mode to the startup screen everytime I want to launch an application.Do I use Windows 8 in a weird way? Frankly speaking I did not bother to learn the new features of this new MS animal in detail.
danielcawrey
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50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 12:36:39 PM
Re: Another steaming pile of Windows
The byzantine method of separating "modern" apps with "desktop" ones is just not working. I get why Microsoft did it from a technology standpoint, but the reality is that mainstream users don't understand the purpose of having to switch back an forth because they want to use a certain program. 

I still don't understand why Microsoft didn't just create to separate operating systems. People still need the desktop based windows, but there is also a need for a touch/tablet version, however nascent that may be in the Windows ecosystem right now.
Whoopty
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50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
4/23/2014 | 6:49:05 AM
Intuitiveness
There are certain aspects of Windows 8 which I really like, update .1 or not, but it still doesn't feel very intuitive. Playing around with it for the first time it took me a few days to figure out how to turn the thing off. 

Personally I'll wait to see what Windows 9 is like before upgrading one way or the other. 7 serves me fine at the moment. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/22/2014 | 5:49:25 PM
Why hasn't he heard from the Silent Majority?
There's a reason, Michael, why they call the vast, unheralded mass of Windows users the Silent Majority. They don't offer up many snarky comments, but they will recognize their favored Start menu is back and many will start the transition to Windows 8.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/22/2014 | 4:04:12 PM
Like I said, Windows 8.1 Update hasn't persuaded everyone
The first two reader comments are overwhelmingly negative.

I've written that Windows 8.1 Update is much better than earlier versions. Usability really isn't a concern if you make a few tweaks. But I also see the reverse side of the equation: Even if Windows 8.1 is rounding into decent shape, a lot of customers have been waiting for almost a year and a half for Microsoft to get its OS act together.

Microsoft is moving much faster, but at least some customers seem to have decided Windows simply isn't worth the trouble, especially since it's easier than ever (generally speaking, not necessarily in specific businesses or industries) to use other OSes without compromise.

 
BobLoblaw2
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100%
BobLoblaw2,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2014 | 3:29:13 PM
Start Menu
Whoa. Start menu coming this fall. No it's too much innovation to take in all at once. My head is spinning from the possibilities. What genius has developed this game changer?  Does Ctrl-Alt-Delete still work?
asksqn
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100%
asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 3:05:33 PM
Another steaming pile of Windows
Windows 8.x is the turd MS keeps polishing in hopes of forcing more consumers to use it.  It is, no doubt, part and parcel why it ended support for XP despite the wild popularity of the OS.   
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