Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Give us the Windows 8 Start menu and no one will get hurt

It's looking like Microsoft won't be bringing back the Start menu until 2015. Way to put the customer first, Microsoft!

Oh, come on! Are you serious, Microsoft? As late as April 2014, you were promising us the return of the Start menu to Windows 8. But it's not included in Windows 8.1 Update 2, which we expect to show up in August. In fact, it now looks like you aren't going to give us a Start menu until Threshold, a.k.a. Windows 9 shows up. That will be sometime next year! And Windows 9 certainly is not Windows 8.

You have got to be kidding me!

Look, Microsoft, I'm willing to acknowledge when you do things right. You've finally made the desktop the default interface with Windows 8.1 Update 1 instead of the hot mess that's Metro/Modern. But come on! We want our freaking Start menu!

Have you looked at your operating system market share lately? I have, and I can't help but notice that as Windows XP slowly shuffled off into the sunset, it was Windows 7, and not Windows 8, that inherited its users.

Now, why would that be? After all, consumers really have no choice other than buying Windows 8 systems. Clearly, it's because businesses are willing to pay extra -- and expend extra effort -- to get Windows 7 on their systems.

Think about that for a second, Microsoft. Your enterprise customers are willing to pay more for an older version of your flagship desktop operating system. The reasons? They like the old Aero-style interface. They don't like Modern. They like having a desktop. Review after review says the same thing. Users like the windows, icons, menus and pointers (WIMP) interface. Maybe it's not cool, and it sure isn't tablet- or smartphone-friendly, but it's what desktop users want. Shocking, huh?

Do you really want to send your most important customers the message that you're going to continue to ignore their wishes? I don't think so! These are the customers that you want to buy into your server family and Azure cloud.

Stardock, the maker of Start8, perhaps the most popular third-party Start menu program, stated in January 2013 that it had already had 3 million downloads. That comes to about 300,000 downloads a month since the program had been introduced as a beta. There surely have been millions more in the year and a half since then, but let's go with a very conservative estimate of 2 million.

And, of course, besides Start8, there's also Start Menu 8, Start Menu Reviver, Classic Shell, Pokki, etc. There's an entire industry devoted to giving Windows 8 a Start menu. I did some research on download sites, and it appears that this quartet of alternative Start menu programs have been downloaded at least 10.6 million times.

Add that all up and you have 15.6 million users out there who are using third-party Start menu programs. Now, if you believe Microsoft, more than 200 million PCs with Windows 8 have been put into end users' hands. A closer look reveals that there were, in February, between 165 and 184 million Windows 8 users. So, let's see, if we use 184 million as our base, about 8.5% of users have taken the time and trouble to find, download and install a Start menu alternative.

That's a lot of motivated, unhappy users. Come on, Microsoft, would it really be that hard to give us the Start menu back again? Don't you want your customers to like your products? Or, at the least, don't you want them to believe that you'll listen to them?

I hope so, otherwise you may yet end up conceding the desktop to Chromebooks, Macs or, heck, even Android-based PCs. Just give us our Windows 8 Start menus and no one will get hurt, including you and your bottom line.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bit/sec. was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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