Notice something missing from Windows 8's Consumer Preview, Release Preview, and the leaked screenshots of the "release to manufacturing" build, which feature a Metro UI makeover?
That's right -- the Start button is gone for the first time.
The decision to not only kill the Start button, but rip out any code that would allow it to be restored was a controversial one, but Microsoft is standing behind it. Chaitanya Sareen, principal program manager at Microsoft comments in an interview with PCPro:
When we evolved the taskbar we saw awesome adoption of pinning [applications] on the taskbar. We are seeing people pin like crazy. And so we saw the Start menu usage dramatically dropping, and that gave us an option. We’re saying 'look, Start menu usage is dropping, what can we do about it? What can we do with the Start menu to revive it, to give it some new identity, give it some new power?
In other words, Microsoft is arguing that the majority of the users don't want the Start menu, and are showing it via their usage behavior.
The Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program discovered this trend by mining data from Windows 7 users. Windows 7 introduced the pinning feature, which allowed you to add your favorite apps to your taskbar. Another cause of users' abandonment of the Start button may be Microsoft's improved search functionality, which can quickly find less commonly used programs or folders.
In many ways Microsoft's approach mirrors Apple design philosophy. In OS X you have a single row of pinned icons on the bottom of the screen, which provide your principal app access. Lesser apps are typically found and opened via the search widget.
That's not to say the change in direction will be without controversy. Will you miss the start button?