Windows Blue may restore Start button, Desktop, Microsoft's hopes

Windows 8.1, coden-amed Windows Blue, may bring back the old facets of Windows that users are clamoring for.

The two most disliked aspects of Windows 8 - the lack of a Start button and inability to boot to desktop - may finally be addressed in Windows 8.1, aka "Windows Blue," an update to the maligned due later this year.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley was the first to pick up on this and put the pieces together, because the hints were scattered around various sources. The first hint appeared on NeoWin via a Russian Windows site, where someone went digging through a leaked beta version of Windows Blue.

In the build, they found a line of code in the twinui.dll file in Windows 8.1 (build 9364) that indicates users may be able to immediately launch into the Explorer desktop when starting Blue, rather than the Modern UI only. Foley added that her own sources report the Start menu may return.

This has been a major bugaboo for many folks and has kept them away from Windows 8, myself included. IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told CNET last month that the two most wanted features are the Start menu and Explorer desktop.

Foley pegs the Windows Blue release for August of this year, and Microsoft will hold the Build conference in late June of this year. I'm imagining a huge response if the Start button and Explorer boot are added or not. The audience will either be jubilant or furious.

Nothing is official until it ships. I really hope sense prevails at Microsoft. This isn't the matter of a few malcontents around the edges; this is pretty much every OEM partner and all of the major analyst firms, to say nothing of user forums, openly saying what the problem is. The problem can be summed up with two words: "Desktop" and "Start."

Microsoft might have gotten away with the radical overhaul if the apps were there, but they weren't. They promised 100,000 in the first 90 days; we got 45,000 in the first 120 days, and most were mediocre. Even worse, the native apps in Windows 8 stink. In particular, the Mail client is abysmal. Windows Live Mail was a positively advanced piece of software by comparison.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Microsoft is more than capable of stopping the misery. I hope to hell they do.

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