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Microsoft likely to bring back Start menu in future Windows update

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 16, 2013
If rumors are right, Redmond will mimic Stardock's tools that already offer Start menu and 'Metro' apps on the desktop

Microsoft will bring back the Start menu to Windows 8 and let users run "Metro" apps inside windows on the desktop, restoring traditional elements to its newest operating system, according to a report by a long-time Microsoft watcher.

Paul Thurrott, citing anonymous sources, claimed Monday that the next update for Windows, which other pundits have pegged for the spring of 2015, will offer options for both a Start menu and on-desktop execution of the touch-centric "Modern," nee "Metro," apps.

In October, Microsoft restored a pseudo-Start button in Windows 8.1, and gave users the option of circumventing the tile-style Start screen by booting directly to the conventional desktop. However, it declined to reinstate a Start menu.

But neither of the alleged future additions will be, well, new: Users have been able to restore the Start menu and run windowed Metro apps for months.

Plymouth, Mich.-based Stardock, a company best known for creating Windows customization tools, has offered Start8, a Start button-and-menu, since March 2012, months before Windows 8's release. A year later Stardock launched ModernMix, which lets Windows 8 and 8.1 customers shun the new Metro user interface (UI) by running apps on the classic desktop.

The tools run $5 each, and are included in Stardock's wider-ranging Object Desktop, which costs $50 for an annual subscription.

Microsoft's retracing of steps already taken by Stardock -- and to be fair, other developers too, including some who give away their work -- has not gone unnoticed. Thurrott, for example, pointed out that Metro apps can already run on the classic desktop using ModernMix.

Is Microsoft simply exploiting Stardock as an R&D center, commandeering its concepts? If so, Brad Wardell, founder and CEO of Stardock, won't complain.

"One of the selling points of our software over the years has been that buying it is like getting a future version of Windows today," Wardell said in an email reply to questions. "We have no problem with Microsoft using what we do as a resource for improving Windows. Windows 8 is a really good OS. It just needs to decide what it wants to be."

But Microsoft's anticipated move will not be trouble-free for Stardock, Wardell acknowledged.

"In the short run, there is always some pain," Wardell said. "Start8 and ModernMix have brought us millions of new customers, so we definitely would miss that influx of new users."

Indeed it would. While Stardock has been cranking out code since 1991, Start8 boosted its profile well above its earlier reputation as a game maker and the creator of WindowBlinds, a suite of Windows customization tools that harked back to 1998, three years before the still-going-strong Windows XP shipped.


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