The upcoming Windows 8.1 update will have a slew of nice-to-have updates that make the operating system better to use with mouse and keyboard. But it will be missing a new Start Menu that Microsoft is promising will some day appear. Why wait, Microsoft? I want it now!
Even before Windows 8 officially shipped in October, 2012 there were countless complaints that the company had killed the Start Menu. Many, many months before the release, testers of various pre-release versions (including me) asked that it be brought back. So it's not as if Microsoft hasn't known for a long time -- well over two years -- that users were demanding that the company restore one of Windows' most useful features.
Despite that, it's still not here. It wasn't in Windows 8. It wasn't in Windows 8.1. It's not in the Windows 8.1 update. At its BUILD conference, Microsoft showed screen shots of it in action, and promised it was coming...some day. But it didn't say when that day might be.
To Start Menu fans, the new one will be a thing of beauty. It'll be a mashup of the traditional Windows 7 one, with a nice new addition. It will be divided into two panes. The left pane looks exactly like the Windows 7 Start Menu, complete with recently run apps, a search box, and even the old familiar "Shut down" button. Just to the right of that is a pane with a collection of Metro live tiles, that look and work just like the ones on the Start screen. So they'll show when you've got new email, social network notifications, and so on.
It's baffling why it's taken Microsoft so long to do this. Even before Windows 8 launch, a number of third-party tools were available to add a Start Menu to Windows 8, so it's not as if it took any feat of remarkable programming. More than anything, it seems sheer pig-headedness, as if Microsoft believed that adding back a Start Menu was a defeat and it wasn't going to bow to pressure.
Microsoft did just about everything else right at the BUILD conference -- releasing Office for the iPad, giving away some versions of Windows and Windows Phone for free, and more. It shouldn't have merely announced that the Start Menu was coming back at some unspecified time. It should have actually brought it back.