Microsoft says you, yes you, are the reason it killed the Start menu

Isn't that blaming the victim?

Is the blame game starting before Windows 8 even ships? Or am I just spoiling for another fight with Windows 8?

A Microsoft executive spoke to UK publication PC Pro during the TechEd show in Amsterdam and made some rather interesting comments that explain just why the heck the Start button was axed from Windows.

RELATED: Windows 8 Update: Windows Phone 8 apps won't run as-is

Windows Phone 8: The new enterprise smartphone platform

It's been presumed Microsoft did it to push us into the Metro interface, but the company is actually saying that consumer trends are what motivated the Start button's removal. Chaitanya Sareen, principal program manager at Microsoft, said the company noticed a major shift in Start button use in Windows 7 based on telemetry gathered by the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program.

"When we evolved the taskbar we saw awesome adoption of pinning [applications] on the taskbar. We are seeing people pin like crazy. And so we saw the Start menu usage dramatically dropping, and that gave us an option. We’re saying 'look, Start menu usage is dropping, what can we do about it? What can we do with the Start menu to revive it, to give it some new identity, give it some new power?'" he told PC Pro.

But instead of giving Start new power, they put a bullet in it. He went on:

"So I’m a desktop user, I pin the browser, Explorer, whatever my apps are. I don’t go the Start menu as often," he added. "If you’re going to the Start screen now, we’re going to unlock a whole new set of scenarios, or you can choose not to go there, stay in the desktop, and it’s still fast. You can’t beat the taskbar."

Now, that’s where he loses me. I pinned those apps to my desktop by accessing them through the Start menu in the first place. Taking Start out of Explorer and saying go use the Taskbar is like giving me a 30-foot ladder with the bottom four rungs missing.

Plus, those telemetry reports should also point out that people are putting their most commonly-used apps on the task bar. My task bar has Skype, Word, Excel, Outlook, AIM, iTunes, Chrome and WinAMP. That's what I use the most. But you should see my Start menu. That's where less-used items, like a menu for Gigabyte (my motherboard) and Nvidia (my video card) are stashed, along with anti-malware, games and secondary apps.

I might buy that if Microsoft had not gone so far as to remove the Start menu code from the OS so you couldn't even have a third-party Start button. Ok, so people use it less, but that action is telling the rest of us “you will NOT use this feature.” That's the crux of most opposition to the move.

And I am left to wonder, why didn't Microsoft kill off CMD.exe? I started off on DOS machines, made the transition to Windows 3.1 where I used the command line a little less, used it even less with Windows 95 and hardly at all with XP and 7. But I still use it, and still need it from time to time, and I want it there for those times when it calls for command line access.

Just because people use a feature less doesn't mean you completely yank it out. By that logic, Microsoft should have yanked Internet Explorer out of there. Have you looked at its usage rates lately? It's been on a downward slope for years, only recently halting thanks to a TV ad blitz. So I am not ready to buy this answer.

For those who want the Metro experience on Windows 7, you might want to try out Rainmeter and this incredible skin, which replicates Metro very nicely.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in