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Microsoft: Start Menu Returns, Windows Free For Small Device OEMs, Cortana Beta 387

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-in dept.
At Microsoft's BUILD conference today, the company announced that the Start Menu will officially be returning to Windows 8.1. It will combine the Windows 7 Start Menu with a handful of Metro-style tiles. They're also making it so Windows 8 apps can run in windows using the normal desktop environment. In addition to the desktop announcements, Microsoft also talked about big changes for Windows on mobile devices and Internet-of-Things devices. The company will be giving Windows away for free to OEMs making phones and tablets (9" screens and smaller), and for IoT devices that can run it. Microsoft also finally unveiled Cortana, their digital assistant software that's similar to Siri.
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Microsoft: Start Menu Returns, Windows Free For Small Device OEMs, Cortana Beta

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  • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:06PM (#46642441) Homepage Journal

    So it only took about a year of screaming from the users and slashdotters before Microsquishy paid attention and brought back the MENU instead of that god damned useless start screen. Who knows -- by 9.x maybe it'll even be as usable as 7 again.

    • by rikkards (98006) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:25PM (#46642671) Journal

      It's because they can't use their usual solution which is "you need to upgrade to the next version"

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:29PM (#46642725) Journal

      A year? People have been telling Microsoft Metro was a catastrophe since they released the public betas.

      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:34PM (#46642775)

        OT: I finally found your moped jesus:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... [telegraph.co.uk]

        now that that mystery is solved, all the rest look comparatively simple.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:46PM (#46642915)

        "A year? People have been telling Microsoft Metro was a catastrophe since they released the public betas."

        Even so, they've taken this dubious fall-back position: "Okay, we admit that it sucks and that nobody likes it, so we're going back to the old way. But we're going to keep pushing the obviously failed 'new' way at you anyway."

        Because... ??? Honestly, the only reason that comes to mind is that they are incapable of admitting that the whole thing was just plain a bad idea.

        But wait! I guess it did accomplish something. It got others in the industry to also adopt eye-burning flat toolbars and icons, containing little pictograms that the brain associates with nothing in particular.

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:18PM (#46644415)

          Looking back, you can actually see a timeline of their PR bullshit.

          1. "Here, the new Metro! It's shiny and cool, and you'll be so much more productive!"
          2. "The new Metro is great! Really, it is! If for some odd reason you don't instantly fall in love with it, it only means that you haven't tried it!"
          3. "Metro is good! And the only people who don't like it yet are those that didn't give it a chance and try it for a while."
          4. "Metro is really useful, trust us! You just need to give it a try and use it for a while and get used to it. Honestly, once you're used to it you'll wonder how you could live without it."
          5. "Ok, for the time being you can switch back to old style, but you'll see that you'll do it less and less frequently and you'll eventually embrace Metro, most applications will only be useful in Metro anyway!"
          6. "Well, it seems that at least for now we have to allow using "old style" for more apps, because there are still those luddites that can't accept change. But you WILL find Metro useful at some point in the future, maybe the time isn't right yet!"
          7. "Ok, ok... the world is not ready yet for Metro it seems."

          Still waiting for the "Ok, ok... we admit, we tried to fix something that wasn't broken and realized that looking for a problem with a solution nobody wants is the wrong way 'round."

        • by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @10:47PM (#46645921)

          Because... ??? Honestly, the only reason that comes to mind is that they are incapable of admitting that the whole thing was just plain a bad idea.

          Well the traditional Windows 7 UI is a royal pain in the ass to use on touchscreen devices so you need an interface more tailored to touchscreens which the modern UI is good at. Their only issue was making it the default on desktops.

          • by Spacelord (27899)

            A touch screen on a PC or laptop is a solution looking for a problem. It makes sense on mobile devices, because you don't have the luxury of decent input devices there, but a mouse and keyboard will always be superior if you have them available.

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @11:01PM (#46646001) Journal

          The whole thing was not a bad idea for tablets. And having tablet-centric touch UI side by side with desktop UI makes sense for all those convertibles.

          The problem was that Metro was shoved onto desktop/mouse users. Now that it's being fixed, this makes sense. What makes even more sense is Metro apps being able to run in regular floating, resizable windows - this means that you can write an app with a single codebase that runs on any Windows device in any form factor, including ARM varieties and phones (and yes, it is possible to dynamically adapt UI to the platform). Which means that people will now actually write those apps, because they will have the entire market of existing Windows desktop users to target.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      What's funny is that if you slapped in your favorite UI replacement, then Win8 became even better than 7. Faster, more stable, and if you're a gamer gave even better performance. Remove that, and it was a huge pain in the ass, so in your post I can't quite figure out the "by 9.x it'll be as useable as 7 again..." there's paid options such as Start8, not paid options such as Classicshell. And really, if you couldn't be bothered to replace the awful UI for something else, that's your own problem.

      I will say

      • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:41PM (#46642855) Homepage

        "Product X is great, you just have to replace it's main features with additional products Y and Z".

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Yeah, that's a real ringing endorsement there.

        • In the Linux world, Product X = Gnome 3. Totally unusable for many people without third-party extensions, yet those same people keep telling everybody how great it is. The only way it makes sense for me in either case (Win 8.x or Gnome 3) is if the advocates are all masochists and think that everybody else likes pointless suffering as much as they do. Personally, I use Linux with Xfce because it does what I want, the way I want without using up excessive RAM or CPU.
          • by CronoCloud (590650) <cronocloudauron@nOspam.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:33PM (#46643445)

            Totally unusable for many people without third-party extensions, yet those same people keep telling everybody how great it is.

            once had a little discussion with some Gnome 3 advocates including Rahul Sundaram, either here or on the Fedora Forums about Gnome 3. They'd say install this or that add-on to restore the functionality that was in Gnome2. I said there was a reason that the CDE/Win9x+/XFCE/Gnome2 interface was fairly standard, it's not perfect but it just works to get stuff done and to quit copying mobile interfaces for desktop use.

            Then ol Rahul said Gnome 3 wasn't inspired by tablet/mobile interfaces.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Chas (5144)

          "Product X is great, you just have to replace it's main features with additional products Y and Z".

          Sound like Apple's MO.

          What people who whine about "you should just install Start8 and get over it" miss is this very simple point.

          You should not HAVE to. Not for a key piece of UI like the Start menu.

          Microsoft's reason for pulling the Start Menu out of Windows amounts to "Because I said so". They can prattle on about how shallow the usage was, the problems it would cause in future adoption, etc, etc. But the main reason is still "We want you to do it THIS WAY now, we don't give a shit that you've been do

      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:47PM (#46642917) Journal

        The problem for enterprise environments is that these add-ins are likely not going to be manageable via AD and GPOs, and at least where I am, that makes adoption an iffy process. Much better to have this basic GUI functionality built into the operating system itself.

        If the next version of Windows is close enough to Windows 7 for our staff to be comfortable, then we'll lift our organization-wide ban on Windows 8/8.1 workstations. For the moment, however, we continue to purchases Windows 7 Professional workstations and notebooks, and, amusingly enough, our suppliers basically say "And you will be wanting that with Windows 7, right?" They know that Windows 8 has been a bomb in the enterprise market.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, it took long enough for a new CEO to come in.

    • by MBC1977 (978793) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:40PM (#46642851) Journal
      Useless to who? There is this thing called "adapt and overcome" that works wonders. Or to put it another way, just because you (and some others) don't like it does not make it useless. I use it interchangeably with the Windows desktop and my output of work has not changed, thanks.
      • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:15PM (#46643247)

        Why is this a thing that always has to be explained? It's not just the start screen, it's the pervasive touchscreen controls that do not fit the desktop PC ergonomics. It looks great for a smartphone or tablet but PC? No and their attempts to make some of those controls work with the mouse (ie, charms) is a perpetual annoyance.

        Now as for the start screen itself, the act of taking over the whole screen is, at least to me, akin to the Doorway Effect [scientificamerican.com]. I don't want a wall of icons; I want text labels in (a few at most) columns ordered alphabetically. You know, like most of my files (sometimes by file type, sometimes by last modified).

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Bringing back what never should have been taken away - it's the new innovation.

      the older innovation was buying up companies which developed technology you were unable to.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      New CEO, and already actual tangible changes. I'd hate to judge early but I'm pretty sure Satya is the right guy.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        No, he's not. Ballmer was the right guy. They need to bring him back, so I can enjoy watching him run MS into the ground.

      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @11:12PM (#46646065) Journal

        Satya is the right guy. He's an engineer, not a salesman. He knows how things actually work, and not just inside the little (in modern realities) Microsoft bubble.

        (case in point: he knows what node.js is - not as a buzzword, but the actual tech details)

        There's one more thing. Not many people seem to have been paying attention to what other changes there have been under Satya, but one noticeable change is the skyrocketing rise of Scott Guthrie. Why this matters? Well, Scott is the guy who, for the last 7 years or so, has been heavily pushing for F/OSS inside Microsoft. In particular, open sourcing ASP.NET MVC was his testbed project, and all the other .NET bits that went F/OSS after that were also under his guidance. Oh, and jQuery.

        And now this guy is being rapidly promoted - first stepping in to take Satya's place as the latter goes CEO, then becoming an executive VP of Cloud+Enterprise. Now this is the division that's basically responsible for the entire MS server-side stack - SQL, Exchange, Azure etc - but also all the developer tools. I'll let you draw the conclusions from that.

        Oh, and one other telling thing was the recent renaming of Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure, with the justification of "we do more than just Windows there, and don't want Linux users to feel unwelcome". This sort of casual dismissal of the Windows brand was unthinkable mere months ago.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >So it only took about a year of screaming from the users and slashdotters before Microsquishy paid attention and brought back the MENU instead of that god damned useless start screen.

      It came out in October 2012, but people have been screaming about it since the pre-release in 2011.

      So about the same amount of time it took Blizzard to fix the clusterfuck called Diablo 3, and with the same amounts of fucks given by the general population.

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Touchscreens didn't become ubiquitous. Metro Fail.

      Film at 11.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:04PM (#46643115)

      Who knows -- by 9.x maybe it'll even be as usable as 7 again.

      This is horrible news. It just might save Windows.

    • by Prien715 (251944)

      by 9.x maybe it'll even be as usable as 7 again

      Are you kidding? Windows 9X introduced the start menu! Don't you remember The Rolling Stones promo commercial (Start me up)?

      I'm more worried about what comes after 9X (probably Me, you know, to compete with all the iProducts).

      [Yes I realized there was a dot between 9 and X. Which I took to be the Perl concatenation operator.]

    • by gonz (13914)

      > So it only took about a year of screaming from the users
      > and slashdotters before Microsquishy paid attention and
      > brought back the MENU instead of that god damned
      > useless start screen.

      No, what it took was a new CEO. Don't flatter yourself. What you have observed is merely the surface of a significant shift that is happening. The fact that these effects are already visible in the first 6 months is pretty telling.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:06PM (#46642449)

    Microsoft listens to end users?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gewalker (57809)

      I thought it more laughable the parent suggested that MS listened to slashdotters

  • Desperation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ilsaloving (1534307)

    Wow, this just smacks of all kinds of desperation. It's amazing how badly Microsoft fails when they're not allowed to stack the deck in their favour.

    Although I'm curious about Cortana. If they make her/him/it sound like GladOS, I would have to seriously reconsider my position. :3

    • Why was this marked troll?

      How is it not desperation when Microsoft has to start giving away their flagship mobile OS because no one wants it?

      Or that they're FINALLY bringing back something resembling a proper desktop UI instead of their ridiculous fisher-price ATM interface that they had forced on people, and in the process added insult to injury on an already flagging computer market.

      The only truly interesting/innovative idea in that whole announcement is Cordana, which actually sounds pretty cool, assumin

  • by slapout (93640) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:12PM (#46642521)

    "Microsoft also finally unveiled Cortana, their digital assistant software that's similar to Siri."

    As opposed to Clippy, their digital assistant software that's similar to Jar Jar Binks.

    • by gewalker (57809)

      Actually, this is the one thing I actually care about. A little competition in the digital assistant marketplace can only be a good this. The number of deep pockets able to compete here must be pretty limited, and the state of the art can definitely use some improvement. Matters not if MS version is better or not as long as it is decent it will be some additional competition.

  • What about 2012R2??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fullmetal55 (698310) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:14PM (#46642543)

    PLEASE PLEASE TAKE THE DAMN TILE INTERFACE AWAY FROM YOUR SERVER OS!!!!

    It's useless! it's painful! I curse myself whenever I hit the start button!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:25PM (#46642669)

      You silly rabbit. Servers run linux.

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      I think it will get this too given that it is basically the server version of Win8.1.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:14PM (#46642549)
    I've heard people saying that Linux is something that nobody wants even for free. It's nice to see that Linux has finally caught up with Windows! Or the other way around. Whatever.
    • I've heard people saying that Linux is something that nobody wants even for free. It's nice to see that Linux has finally caught up with Windows! Or the other way around. Whatever.

      I don't think you really understand the irony...Microsoft *partners* are prepared to *pay* Microsoft to run Linux instead of windows.

      “It’s not like Android’s free,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive. “You do have to license patents.”

      FYI Apple is doing quite nicely too

  • Cortana (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpaceManFlip (2720507) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:19PM (#46642595)
    Cortana was Master Chief's AI companion (the big space marine carrier's AI computer) in the original Halo game. I still hate that Microsoft bought Bungie, and now they're going to milk the shit out of that IP by naming the rip-off of Siri Cortana. I grew up playing the Marathon series on Mac, and when I first played Halo I saw that all the same stuff was there, just fleshed out into awesome 3D so I was like "yay Bungie" and then Microshit shit all over Halo 2 with their Vista "DirectX 10 required" lies etc. Halo 2 worked well on XP with the Vista checks removed. /ramble
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:20PM (#46642613)

    What about all us fools who installed server 2012, and can't upgrade to 2012 R2 without paying another 1400 bucks? Are we going to get screwed without even a start button for the next 5 years that we run these servers?

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      Don't forget lack of IE11 too. At least they are willing to support these users for the full 10 years unlike Win8.0, and yes this distinction is artificial too.

    • by DaHat (247651)

      What about all us fools who installed server 2012, and can't upgrade to 2012 R2 without paying another 1400 bucks?

      What makes you think you can't upgrade to 2012 R2 without paying $1400?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's a totally separate OS, look it up. If you purchased software assurance for a hefty fee, you can upgrade for free. You will have to totally reinstall windows though. For those of us who buy OEM for small business customers, they would have to buy a whole new copy of 2012R2. OK, so maybe it's more like "only" $800 since I think you can still use your 2012 client access licenses. Factor in 3 or 4 hours of labor to complete the upgrade, and well, you get the idea.

        It's definitely not anything like the

    • by JustNiz (692889) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:33PM (#46644519)

      >> Are we going to get screwed without even a start button for the next 5 years that we run these servers?

      Nope. Just install Linux on them. Have whatever desktop you want, or none at all.
      What are you thinking running Windows as a server in the first place?

  • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:34PM (#46642781)

    Now, could they get rid of the flat, huge, ugly UI elements (window borders, buttons, etc.) and go back to the reasonable look of Vista or 7? Sheesh, honestly the hideous ugliness of it was the most irritating thing about 8 for me, as the tile interface and start menu problems could be fixed with a few add-ons.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I like the flat look. But they were very boneheaded and removed the ability to change the border width! You can still do it from the registry though, shrink it down to the minimum width and it looks pretty nice to me. I'd rather have 0 border ala macos, but it's better than the default. I never liked the rounded stuff in windows xp, and the glossy aero stuff in windows 7 just made it even worse. Simpler is better, and there's no good reason to add visual eye candy to something that's not related to the

  • Oh god, it's clippy 2.0
  • Looks fine, but I never have seen the big deal. For me, if you're spending a lot of quality time interacting with the start menu, you're probably doing things wrong. I acknowledge that a lot of people do it wrong though. Again, for me, I use applications software like Visual Studio, Eclipse, cmd, Word, Filezilla, WinMerge, and so on, and those things are pinned to my taskbar. For everything else I hit [win] and type the name. Very similar to what I did in Windows versions that had a start menu, and hopefull
  • This still creates a coverage gap for XP users. If 8.1 had a sane UI today, I'd go XP-to-8.1. It's just an announcement though. With XP support going tits up in just a few days, there's no way to fill the gap without doing something transitional that you might want to throw away in a few months.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      This still creates a coverage gap for XP users. If 8.1 had a sane UI today, I'd go XP-to-8.1. It's just an announcement though. With XP support going tits up in just a few days, there's no way to fill the gap without doing something transitional that you might want to throw away in a few months.

      Just upgrade to Windows 7. It's a proven solution and it has extended support (security patches) up until mid-2020.

      Windows 9 looks like it's going to fix the worst suckage of Win8, but I don't see it as being a "mu

  • This should have been part of 8.1 from the beginning. I just got used to the start screen and now it's going back?

    This should be 8.2 or 9.0 instead of a patch against 8.1.

  • With the decline in laptop/PC sales and the increase in tablet/cellphone sales I suspect that many have simply left Microsoft behind. For a lot of people a phone and/or tablet does everything they need. So they could care less about MS and Windows 8. They have moved on to Apple or Google or whatever.

    Maybe Windows 9 will bring this but here is what MS needs to do:

    1) Those stupid tiles don't work well for a desktop or laptop. Leave the Windows 7 interface as is. People like it the way it is. No need to make a

    • 2) Allow users to load different "skins" like you can on Linux or Android. Metro interface for tablets/phones, Win 7 for desktops. Don't like the one you have? Restart, choose new skin, done. 3) Open source the GUI and allow others to create their own GUI's and sell them in the MS App store. Or give them away. Whatever..just give people choices.

      These last two have been possible since at least Windows XP. Windows allows you to replace the shell with whatever you want. This is the whole idea behind Classic Shell: http://classicshell.net/ [classicshell.net]

  • by ledow (319597)

    So.... all that Metro shit that you forced on us, and we said was shit, turns out it's no good after all, then?

    Sorry, but I always feel a pang of embarrassment on MS's behalf whenever some free utility actually does a BETTER job than the "official Microsoft way".

  • Stop trying to make the "internet of things" happen.
    Fuck your shitty marketing terms. Fuck them from "1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes" to "* as a Service" to "Cloud" to "Business Solutions" to "Internet of Things" to the next shitty fucking thing you come up with and decide to market, require job applicants to have experience with, etc.

    If you can't describe a service or product with concrete terminology then you're selling a bag of marketing fluff and I will not be giving you money for it. Until you can actually t

  • Oh they'll just recycle the Windows 7 tv ads where they supposedly listened to the person in the commercial as the connected to the "cloud".

  • Ballmer is gone.

    Wait, we already knew that.

    Well, anyway, his lack of presence is already starting to be felt.

  • Bad Management (Score:4, Informative)

    by enter to exit (1049190) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:35PM (#46643457)
    Metro should show some intelligence in how it open apps.

    Ideally, if the user opens a metro app from the Desktop, it should be windowed. If it's opened from the Metro Screen it should be full screen.

    Metro is a fine interface for touch devices. It looks good and works well. However it fails miserably when you're trying to use it in conjunction with the desktop. MS should go whole hog and create a Metro only tablet.

    A lot of the blame for Win8 can be shouldered on Steven Sinofsky, who by all accounts thought himself as a cross between Steve Jobs and Napoleon. He was given free reign over Win8 due to his perceived success with MS Office (and the ribbon interface).

    If you follow the MS news, you'll find constant suggestions that he treated the windows division as his fiefdom (and windows phone as a competitor, refusing even the most basic coordination) and that not only did he refuse to include a start menu in Win8 as a transitional step (up to that point, MS has usually offered a way to go back to the old behavior for at least one windows version) he intentionally introduced architectural changes to make it harder for MS to implement one in the future. You'll notice he was fired shortly after without much remorse by anyone.
  • by Dega704 (1454673) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:39PM (#46643515)
    Unfortunately, it looks like they crammed the start menu full of those blasted tiles instead of the useful things users will be expecting. I have used this interface on Windows 8 and Server 2012 and I have tried to give it a chance, I really have; but at the end of the day it is just a nuisance that squirrels away the things I need to get to into the most awkward places. Hopefully by Windows 9 they will finally stop forcing fisher price tablet bullcrap on desktop users altogether. I would be happy if they just got rid of that worthless "charms bar".

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