25 April 2014

Windows 8 Start menu should return in August, thanks to new, faster release cycle

windows 8.1 start menu metro app
Microsoft, recognizing the disappointing truth that iOS and Android aren’t going to being chivalrous and slow down while it fixes Windows 8, is planning to speed up its release cadence yet again. The original plan was to push out a large update every 12 months, rather than releasing a whole new operating system every three years. Now, however, it seems the next major update will arrive as soon as August or September, just a few months after the release of Windows 8.1 Update 1.

At its Build developer conference at the start of April, alongside the official unveil of Windows 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft teased the audience with a new Start menu and the ability to run windowed Metro apps on the Desktop. Everyone was rather excited: These were the two main features that keyboard-and-mouse users had been clamoring for since Microsoft first revealed the new Metro Start screen way back in June 2011. At the end of the demo, as the audience gave Microsoft a resounding why-did-this-take-you-three-years? round of applause, Microsoft’s OS chief Terry Myerson dropped the bombshell that these features would come in a “future update.”

Obviously, given Microsoft’s rather lackadaisical approach to updates, we thought it would be another 12 months until the Start menu and windowed Metro apps actually made it to Windows 8. Not so: According to the (surprisingly accurate) Russian leaker Wzor, Update 2 is coming in September. ZDNet and The Verge, citing their own sources, say that the update is coming in August. None of these sources are confirming that the Start menu will return in August/September, but it’s fairly likely. Windowed Metro apps might make it into Update 2, but they could also be pushed back to Windows 9 (currently due in spring 2015).

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop

Windows 8.1 Update 1 (the current version of Windows). Metro apps can be minimized to the taskbar, but they can’t yet be run in a window on the Desktop.

The Windows 8.1 Start menu, when it eventually returns, will look like a hybrid of the Windows 7 Start menu and the tile-based Windows 8 Start screen. There will be the usual apps list, folder hierarchy, and search box on the left and a bunch of live tiles on the right. Presumably the live tile section will be configurable (and hopefully removable as well, though Microsoft probably won’t be that graceful in defeat). The windowed Metro apps will basically let you run Metro-style apps on the Desktop you’ll be able to minimize them to the taskbar, resize them, and drag them freely between monitors. This still doesn’t fix the problem of Metro apps being intrinsically hard to use with a mouse and keyboard, though.

While consumers should be rightfully excited by the long-overdue return of the Start menu, Microsoft’s shift to a rapid release cycle may cause problems in business/enterprise settings. When it comes to large-scale PC deployments, Windows is it, and has been for some 20 years. IT and sysadmins are used to a much more sedate Windows release cycle, giving them plenty of time to test and plan rollouts to hundreds or thousands of computers. Earlier in the month, Microsoft upset a lot of businesses by announcing that it would only support Windows 8.1 for 30 days after the release of Update 1 a window that was later increased to 120 days due to backlash.

Microsoft would love to release Windows updates every few months so that it can keep pace with the iOS and Android competition but doing so might alienate the large businesses, institutions, and enterprises that make up a sizable portion of Microsoft’s revenues. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft ameliorates the vastly different requirements of consumers and businesses.

Courtesy extremetech.com


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