Why The Windows Blue Start Button Debate Doesn't Really Matter

Much of the discussion around the forthcoming Windows Blue update centres around whether it will reintroduce the Start button in some form. It’s understandable that this stirs up emotion, but from the perspective of IT managers it’s largely irrelevant.

Confirmed information about Windows Blue is fairly thin on the ground. We know that we’ll see interface enhancements and under-the-hood tweaks, and that the update will not be called Windows Blue when it emerges. Microsoft hasn’t officially confirmed plans to reintroduce the Start button or the ability to boot direct to the ‘classic’ Windows desktop, but rumours suggest those options are being considered.

It’s not entirely clear how this might work; in its simplest form, the ‘Start button’ might be nothing more than an icon in the bottom left corner which launches the Windows 8 Start screen. A halfway solution would be a stripped-backed menu with (perhaps) search and a locked-down selection of apps; a full-blown Metro-styled Start menu on the desktop would represent a somewhat unlikely extreme.

There are two points to make here. The first is that if you want to reintroduce the Start button or the ability to boot to the desktop, there are plenty of ways of doing that right now with third-party programs. I’m a big fan of Classic Shell, which performs both those tasks, If your sole reason for resisting Windows 8 is the lack of a Start button, you haven’t thought the issue through.

The second point is this. People don’t like change, and one of the arguments against Windows 8 in a corporate environment is that training will undoubtedly be needed to ensure that staff can master the nuances of Windows 8. However, merely returning the Start button won’t eliminate the need for that kind of training. Even if there’s a start button, there are still new elements of the interface that will need to be learned: just off the top of my head, features like Charms, left and right swiping (especially on non-touch devices), installing and updating Windows 8 apps and even working out how to power down your machine all require learning new methods.

That’s true any time an operating system updates; I still encounter friends and colleagues who never learned to use the Search options on the Start menu. Whether the trade-offs are worthwhile is a decision that will vary for every business, but the Start button itself is unlikely to be a deciding factor, I think. Your thoughts?

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