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

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 gewalker ( 57809 ) <> on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:20PM (#46642605)

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

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

    You silly rabbit. Servers run linux.

  • 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:38PM (#46642819)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:45PM (#46642907)

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

  • 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.

  • Re:Big deal. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yakovlev ( 210738 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:01PM (#46643101) Homepage

    It's interesting,because my opinion on those two is the exact opposite.

    I couldn't care less about boot to desktop. That's a single button click when I boot the machine.

    However, I use the start menu quite often. It provides a hierarchically sorted list of every program I have installed on the system. I use that about once a week to once a month. It also provides a list of my most recently used programs. I could move those to the taskbar (and sometimes do) but sometimes these change and I don't want them semi-permanently taking up space on the taskbar.

    There are three things that are really bad about windows 8. I've ordered them from worst to least bad.

    1.) The charms bar is torture on a desktop. You have to go to the top right of the screen, then go halfway down the screen in a narrow strip to actually click on something. If your mouse moves outside that narrow strip for even a moment, the charms bar disappears and you have to do it again. "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

    2.) The start menu was removed, because it is rarely used. This was just not thinking. The start menu has become big and clunky... that's also become it's purpose. We have new and better methods to access frequently used programs, but the start menu continues to be useful for those infrequently used programs. A hierarchical list is certainly better than displaying them all in a flat grid of live tiles.

    3.) Metro programs can't run in a window. This makes them inconvenient for multitasking, which is common for desktop users but not for tablet users.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:07PM (#46643141)

    Notice that something really big happened not too long before this announcement: Steve Ballmer was replaced as CEO. As long as he was at the helm, they held to their strategy of pushing Metro on everyone. Now he's gone, so things are likely to change.

    This is really unfortunate IMO. I was hoping they'd double-down on Metro, maybe even eliminate the regular desktop mode. I was really enjoying watching MS stumble under Ballmer's leadership, and the last thing I want to see is them to become highly successful again.

  • 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 []. 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 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 RaceProUK ( 1137575 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:28PM (#46644481)
    If MS disappeared overnight, someone else would take its place. All that would happen is one devil being replaced by another.
  • 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 Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @09:49PM (#46645617)

    Maybe, maybe not. Even if Apple took over 90% of the market, at least we'd never have to be subject to the Win32 API any more. And given the free and open availability of Linux and the *BSDs, any new "devils" would probably simply build on those, just as Apple did, rather than inventing a whole new monstrosity.

  • 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 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.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.