Windows 'Threshold' may bring back the Start menu

By on December 9, 2013, 6:30 PM
microsoft, windows, start menu, start, threshold

One of the significant changes made in Windows 8 was the removal of the Start menu, which was a major feature of every version of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows 7. However if the latest report from Microsoft expert Paul Thurrott is to be believed, the Start menu might be returning in an update codenamed 'Threshold' that was detailed last week.

Thurrott believes the Start menu will be an optional desktop-only component and will be included only with the versions of Windows with the desktop. Touch-centric versions, which are eventually set to ditch the desktop mode entirely, won't have access to the Start menu and will continue using the Start screen as the main (and only) UI.

The choice by Microsoft to remove the Start menu initially caused a lot of negative feedback in the community, especially as its replacement - the Start screen - was harder to use on non-touch devices. 'Threshold' seems like it will be continuing what Windows 8.1 started and addressing some of the major complaints with Windows 8.

The Start menu won't be the only new feature in Threshold: it's rumored that Microsoft will finally enable power users to run Metro-style applications in floating windows on the desktop. Currently Metro-style apps run in full-screen mode (unless you use a third-party tool), which isn't the best for those with desktop PCs and lots of screen real estate. Again, Microsoft is listening to user feedback and looking to introduce an oft-requested feature.

Mary Jo Foley also released some information today on the likely SKUs that Windows 'Threshold' will come in. The first SKU will be designed for touch-centric devices, focusing on Metro-style apps and possibly available for both ARM- and x86-based devices. There won't be any desktop in this version, and it will run on phones, tablets and some other mainstream devices.

The other two SKUs are for more traditional users: one would be consumer-focused and include a desktop mode alongside keyboard/mouse optimizations; and the other will be enterprise-focused, seeing less frequent updates as well as a range of business-oriented configuration options.

Threshold is expected to be released in the first half of 2015, with a smaller update to Windows (known as Windows 8.1 Update 1) expected before it in 2014.




User Comments: 43

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cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

OMG, have we finally got MS to listen? Just when I decided to stop complaining and to forget about MS in the future. I remember reading several complains that are addressed in this article. Now if only this is true!

I think I also distinctly remember a member (and yes I remember which one) plainly telling me, MS would not be bringing back the Start Menu. Only time will tell.

1 person liked this | Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So it looks like Microsoft is liking this 3 year Windows cycle... Which would be great if they used Apple-like pricing for the OS.

On the plus side, looks like somebody at MS is actually listening to the power users (and non-touch users), and figuring out that that demographic probably comprises most of the IT departments they need to WANT new operating systems.

psycros psycros said:

"Again, Microsoft is listening to user feedback and looking to introduce an oft-requested feature."

Yes, IF there's a speck of truth to any of these rumors (which all seem to originate from a single source). This could easily be purposeful disinformation meant to boost MSFT's stock price. However, if that were actually the case then I'd be looking at who gains the most from a pump n' dump. It would likely be someone with a foot already out the door.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Too little, MS. Get rid of Metro entirely ffs.

ikesmasher said:

Make the start menu optional on all devices...whats the big deal....

I mean this is great, but still...

2 people like this | Guest said:

Not really sure what Microsoft was thinking when they made Win 8.1.

How am I suppose to use my setup effectivly with the Metro UI? Ever seen Skype in fullscreen across 3 monitors at 5760x1080 resolution? Haha!

I hade to bypass Metro and go directly to desktop mode, and also add a 3rd party start menu...

[image link]

1 person liked this | Guest said:

And what about aero? Will it be included in Threshold update?

Guest said:

You know, I just got an idea... Maybe Microsoft got rid of the start menu because there's no start menu in Mac OS X? I mean, they've always been ripping off Mac OS X... I just don't see any other explanation. But even in Mac OS X there's a LaunchPad, with all applications, and there was an application folder before that. But it's really funny how listening to its users is the last thing the Microsoft does, what a dictatorship.

2 people like this | psycros psycros said:

Too little, MS. Get rid of Metro entirely ffs.

I should have added that Metro needs a major overhaul. Why are they pushing this absurd two-color design aesthetic that's an offense to the eyes and makes everything indistinct and harder to find? "Hot zones" are also a ridiculous mechanic - that's why they didn't gain any traction in the early XP days. We've had over a decade of 32-bit visual richness. The on-screen program status and management area (I.e. taskbar, launcher, sidebar) is a proven, easily understood interface. Yes, there's room for improvement but there's no sense in reinventing the wheel here. Metro's navigation provides nearly zero context, wastes huge amounts of screen real estate and takes too long to use. Nobody wants a UI that looks like a cross between a mall kiosk and a JC Penny's ad from 1991. It isn't more mature or sophisticated, it's doesn't add "neutrality" to the experience..its just homely and hard to use. And don't even get me started on the bizarre gestures. Windows needs a central notification and update system that authorized third parties can plug into: its nearly 2014 and we still have a bunch of little programs eating up system resources just to check for new versions of this or that. Microsoft also needs to revisit the sidebar concept, which could easily be reintroduced thanks to the new addition of the desktop/Metro "divider". Live tiles make a ton of sense as desktop companions (esp. if they mesh well with the look and feel, I.e. high color icons, etc).

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You know, I just got an idea... Maybe Microsoft got rid of the start menu because there's no start menu in Mac OS X? I mean, they've always been ripping off Mac OS X... I just don't see any other explanation. But even in Mac OS X there's a LaunchPad, with all applications, and there was an application folder before that. But it's really funny how listening to its users is the last thing the Microsoft does, what a dictatorship.
I'm fairly certain MS got rid of the Start Menu, because they were butt hurt over people ignoring their "Windows Phone". And now they are starting to realize that their desktop solution to the Windows Phone OS problem is being ignored.

Guest said:

I have a feeling Microsoft is trolling with us again. Just like how they bring back the "Start" button in 8.1

hitech0101 said:

How deep in trouble is MS to listen to user feedback.

1 person liked this | TheBigFatClown said:

Only reason Microsoft is doing this is because, unlike some chimpanzees who dropped their pants, bent over, and said, "Right here Microsoft, right here, do me first!!!!" the majority of people who run a Windows operating system have no real interest in Windows 8. I never tried it, I never supported it with one red cent of my own money, and my stance appears to be paying off.

So Microsoft hasn't been and is by no means listening to their customers. They are listening to their wallets.

TypeR181 TypeR181 said:

Only reason Microsoft is doing this is because, unlike some chimpanzees who dropped their pants, bent over, and said, "Right here Microsoft, right here, do me first!!!!" the majority of people who run a Windows operating system have no real interest in Windows 8. I never tried it, I never supported it with one red cent of my own money, and my stance appears to be paying off.

So Microsoft hasn't been and is by no means listening to their customers. They are listening to their wallets.

insightful post most aptly put.

Guest said:

Windows 8.1 + Start Menu + Aero = Windows 7

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Windows 8.1 + Start Menu + Aero = Windows 7

I'm fairly certain Windows 7 does not have Metro UI. Your equation is flawed with even visual references. Please stop trolling and post what you know (even if you are misinformed) to be true!

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Initially, M$ said they noticed we weren't using the start menu anymore, and that's why it was omitted. 2015 is still a long ways away...

Guest said:

"I'm fairly certain Windows 7 does not have Metro UI. Your equation is flawed with even visual references. Please stop trolling and post what you know (even if you are misinformed) to be true!"

I'm another guess but I will fix that for you:

Windows 8.1 + Start Menu + Aero = Windows 7 + Metro UI < Windows 7

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Windows 8.1 + Start Menu + Aero = Windows 7 + Metro UI < Windows 7
That one got a chuckle out of me. Loved it! LOL

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Not really sure what Microsoft was thinking when they made Win 8.1.

How am I suppose to use my setup effectivly with the Metro UI? Ever seen Skype in fullscreen across 3 monitors at 5760x1080 resolution? Haha!

I hade to bypass Metro and go directly to desktop mode, and also add a 3rd party start menu...

I don't normally read Guests posts and have anything decent to say but your image link was just outstanding, How Microsoft managed to screw up Metro that badly, I will never know xD

I only used Windows 8 for a month or two when it was first released (I had used it on and off before hand) and I just went back to Windows 7, everything is just quicker to find in 7, Also found Windows Updates was more stable in 7 and boot time was slightly better on the same hardware on Windows 7. Application compatibility was also an issue with some phone system software I used, Windows 7, it worked fine, Windows 8, not so much.

Haven't bothered with Windows 8.1 and to be honest I think the market share speaks volumes, Windows 8.x is growing much slower than Windows 7, Windows 7 is outselling Windows 8.x.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Sounds to me like they are taking concepts from Stardock and implementing them one-by-one:

- The return of main menu (Stardock Start8 product)

- Running metro apps in a window (Stardock Object Desktop product)

- Grouping icons is next? (Stardock Fences)

Why won't they just buy Stardock and incorporate the whole lot into the next Windows?

Guest said:

The return of the the return of the start menu debate.

HalfHuman said:

On several sites I saw this nonsense about start menu and been hearing this for some time now. all I can say is: just grow up! all the start button whiners need to step out of childhood.

yesterday I had to do some service on a win xp sp3 and I really miss the win key and start typing thing. to me start menu seems so laborious and it gets worse the more apps you have. start screen is also slow but at least it can show me some data... so far weather data for several city is what I ever use it for. I don't even look at the start screen as win + type is so fast and seamless comapred to start menu/start screen.

modern apps is another thing but they don't make much sense for classic destops. start menu is for phones/tablets/tvs.

now stop whining and do something useful!

Guest said:

On several sites I saw this nonsense about start menu and been hearing this for some time now. all I can say is: just grow up! all the start button whiners need to step out of childhood.

Do you really have to insult people? Why did Microsoft add it back? Because it's majority users want it back. You are part of minority. Sorry, your vote didn't win.

yesterday I had to do some service on a win xp sp3 and I really miss the win key and start typing thing. to me start menu seems so laborious and it gets worse the more apps you have. start screen is also slow but at least it can show me some data... so far weather data for several city is what I ever use it for. I don't even look at the start screen as win + type is so fast and seamless comapred to start menu/start screen.

Only the power and knowledge users can do this. My grandma and grandpa don't even know what name of apps. They have no idea what to type to find the stuff. Like does the 'Internet Explorer' tell you what it is? No, it doesn't. It means nothing as it doesn't tell you that it's web browser. They have no idea about the hot key and hot spot to click on because it isn't visible at all. The start menu is visible and very easy for them to find it first time without require to read the manual. They can click on it to find out what it is. You can't type like that without know right name of apps or some keywords.

now stop whining and do something useful!

Uh? Do you really have to be rude? Sorry dude, that was users' feedback and Microsoft is listening to them. The majority has won.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

now stop whining and do something useful!
Awe!! Are we giving you a headache? No wonder you are confusing anger for whining.

I do love giving others a headache, especially when they love taking peoples options away and then accuse them of whining. If I'm not giving you a headache yet, I can up the game and start using a ball bat. No seriously, I'm free this weekend.

At least I'm old enough, my screen doesn't look like a marriage between building blocks and crayons. I actually love using an image for my background, and don't need a ugly full screen menu system. And I shouldn't be forced to pay extra for an ecosystem, that was taken out of a previous Windows OS. Ohh and my window frames are not dull looking either.

Can you guess which Windows version I am running? I'll give you a small hint, it will never be Windows 8, even if they keep the same name for another 8 years. At this point it is the name I hate, as well as out-of-the-box forced ecosystem change. I'm not gonna give Windows 8.x a chance period. Microsoft might as well change the name of their next release, because as far as I'm concerned Windows 8 has burned a bridge. And from what I can gather, there are others that probably feel the same way.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

On several sites I saw this nonsense about start menu and been hearing this for some time now. all I can say is: just grow up! all the start button whiners need to step out of childhood.

yesterday I had to do some service on a win xp sp3 and I really miss the win key and start typing thing. to me start menu seems so laborious and it gets worse the more apps you have. start screen is also slow but at least it can show me some data... so far weather data for several city is what I ever use it for. I don't even look at the start screen as win + type is so fast and seamless comapred to start menu/start screen.

modern apps is another thing but they don't make much sense for classic destops. start menu is for phones/tablets/tvs.

now stop whining and do something useful!

Sorry, childhood? I've been using Windows since the very first version, hell I helped beta test the first version, so maybe you should reign back on the insults and consider that maybe, JUST MAYBE, there are millions of people out there who have (gasp!) different opinions than you and (shock!) actually use their computers differently than you do. And, it's quite possible that those people have been using Windows for 20+ years and have grown accustomed to a specific method of work, come to expect certain things from Windows, and are most efficient when working within a familiar environment...

Make no mistake, we're not all adverse to change and advancement... But only if it really makes sense, and if it's done right. The Modern UI and app system is absolutely stellar for tablet/touch environments, and I personally love the Surface products (and many of the new 8.1 OEM systems). But that doesn't mean I love it on my desktop. Did you see that Guest post with 3 monitors and a ridiculous Start Screen spread over the entire thing? That's very similar to my system, and was what completely turned me off to Win8 on my desktop. When I want to start a program, I don't want to lose every screen while I hunt for the tile. Couple that with all of these new shiny Win8 program/apps that force full screen, and you lost my interest entirely. It is abundantly clear that a decision was made to tailor Win8 for touch platforms, which leaves me out in the cold a bit. And I most certainly am not alone. Yes, I'm aware there are mods and programs I can get to help mold my user experience back to what it SHOULD be, but that's a little beside the point - the product decisions made when developing Win8 served to massively alienate the very loyal demographics that made Windows such a success in the beginning. MS basically saying "tough, this is how it is, touch is the future, go buy another program to make it how you want it" doesn't do anything to mask the big middle finger that they flew right our faces.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

At this point, I could not care less if they add that back as im happy with Windows 8.1, unless they add orders me a pizza when im hungry support to the list then I really could not care. I have learned to just adapt and move on unless something just kills the machine and experience all together. Honestly just hitting start and typing is what I do anyway, whether its on a basic text toolbar or a giant vibrant colorful screen does not matter to me.

Guest said:

Finally, Windows 7 SP2. I do not care what they call it, I know what it is.

trparky said:

"The choice by Microsoft to remove the Start menu initially caused a lot of negative feedback in the community"

A lot? Really? That's like saying that the Cold War was a little tense. "A lot" doesn't even start to cover the amount of negative feedback that was given when they took out the Start Menu.

Plus, not only that but the window dressings need some serious work. Square windows? No translucent window borders? Seriously?! Did we just step into the TARDIS and go back in time to 1995? It's like you practically need WindowBlinds on Windows 8 to make it even come close to looking decent!

Littleczr Littleczr said:

I still don't want it. Why would a want to install a bloated UI? Take out the bloated UI for desktops please.!

HalfHuman said:

Do you really have to insult people? Why did Microsoft add it back? Because it's majority users want it back. You are part of minority. Sorry, your vote didn't win.

Only the power and knowledge users can do this. My grandma and grandpa don't even know what name of apps. They have no idea what to type to find the stuff. Like does the 'Internet Explorer' tell you what it is? No, it doesn't. It means nothing as it doesn't tell you that it's web browser. They have no idea about the hot key and hot spot to click on because it isn't visible at all. The start menu is visible and very easy for them to find it first time without require to read the manual. They can click on it to find out what it is. You can't type like that without know right name of apps or some keywords.

Uh? Do you really have to be rude? Sorry dude, that was users' feedback and Microsoft is listening to them. The majority has won.

I'm sorry if I was rude. only wanted to be direct. the whole start menu debate is sooo old. also talking about wether start menu will come back or not is boring beyond belief. it is also superficial. windows got so many little improvement that when you just get stuck on the start menu thing... well it sounds short sighted. the start menu is something microsoft invented. using the start screen compared to start menu its like using the mouse rather than putting your finger on a icon/tile.

to me the start screen makes the apps (metro)... that we only have a few for now, a lot more discoverbale. as I said I do not really use the start sceen, its the place where 98% of the time a I go and start typing to search stuff and press enter. this can be learned by a beginer. but lets take on example: a weather app, metro and clasic. the clasic one you hunt through the start menu and open it... probably using the mouse. a metro weather app is already giving you some data in a tile, is animated, enticing you to click the tile to get more. this makes a lot of sense for simple folks, as much as touch makes a lot more sense compared to mouse and keyboard. a small child will learn intuitively a lot faster the tile paradigm than moving the mouse here to move the arrow (cursor) there on the screen to click on a static image (icon). I have to mention of course that this is for simple folks doing simple taks... that even the pros do. for doing pro stuff... the deskop is and will be the king for the forseable future. this is however debateable as touch can be used in pro scenarios as well but that is for another day.

1 person liked this | inventix1136 said:

Windows 8.1 + Start Menu + Aero = Windows 7

I'm fairly certain Windows 7 does not have Metro UI. Your equation is flawed with even visual references. Please stop trolling and post what you know (even if you are misinformed) to be true!

The fact that Windows 7 does not have Metro UI is actually a big selling point of the OS and personally I never use it because if you have a large number of programs installed, it is virtually impossible to determine what each icon is and scrolling through 5+ pages of tiles is a major non-starter for me...

inventix1136 said:

At this point, I could not care less if they add that back as im happy with Windows 8.1, unless they add orders me a pizza when im hungry support to the list then I really could not care. I have learned to just adapt and move on unless something just kills the machine and experience all together. Honestly just hitting start and typing is what I do anyway, whether its on a basic text toolbar or a giant vibrant colorful screen does not matter to me.

It is true. Even a Ferrari driver can adopt to driving a Yogo with bald tires because that's what Windows 7 to Windows 8 comparison is in terms of productivity. Just because someone adapts to something doesn't mean that they are as productive as before.

Guest said:

To the people Who say win8 is a better version of win 7 tell me, how it is better to have the control panel split over two separate areas. How is it better to have a web browser (IE) with two totally different personalities. How is it better to close some programs with the X button and others with a full screen mouse drag. The fact is windows 8 offers no usability improvements over win 7. I work in a computer store and we struggling to move PC's. The 1st question most customers ask is "can I put windows 7 on it" And the answer is either yes if you pay extra for win 8 pro or no because many laptop OEMs don't offer win 7 drivers. HP envy for example.

Guest said:

Hey if they backtracked on Xbox One they might just do the same on Windows. Sounds like consumer win to me.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

As someone who works regularly with users for computer support, Windows 8 has been a nightmare for me.

The first problem was that all the changes were like having to re-learn how to walk. I couldn't do anything efficiently until I spent hours "updating my software" just to get my head wrapped around the changes.

That hasn't happened to me ever since my initial days working with Win 3.x.

The start menu was an addition that efficiently and cleanly organized a lot of options into a small area. The loss of open and closable groups on the desktop (of remembered custom sizes) was slightly annoying, but that was it.

Since Win95, the only real changes have been shortcut keys (damn you shift from CtrlAltDel to CtrlShiftEsc), and background processes.

The biggest issues though are how consumers understand their computers. One of the tricks I would show users previously was how to move all their "random junk" programs in the start menu into one folder, streamlining their Start experience and making it very quick and intuitive. As well as combining that with Desktop (and later, quick launch) links for the most used applications.

Now it feels like setting up anything where they have access to the tools they need requires pen and paper so they remember how to get to it all. No more "Start -> Programs -> Computer Trouble" to hide away all those programs, text files, etc, that they hopefully won't need (and don't want to stare at) for months.

Or when I ask them "how do you get to your control panel", after showing them, it usually involves them trying for 30+ seconds to get the side bar to pop up for them.

And as a dedicated user of multiple monitors, Windows 8 guaranteed that I'd never move past Windows 7. Win8 is a single-screen touch-enabled monstrosity that belongs in the handheld (tablet/phone) market only.

They promised us a "slimmed down" Windows that we would expand and customize to our needs. And yet most professionals I know involved in computer tech find themselves removing/limiting parts of Win8...

MS failed us with Windows 8. They're finally listening to what we have told them with our wallets, but I say "too little, too late". I'm happy with Windows 7. With the dropping prices of RAM, and increases in processing power from multi-core CPUs and 64 bit processing, the bloating still present in Windows 7 is entirely manageable at only minor cost. And that cost is far less than the drawbacks of "upgrading" to the next OS - especially when you consider the cost Microsoft charges for their OS software.

Railman said:

To me the most damaging aspect of W8 is the structure of the icons which is a flat file structure as opposed to hierarchical. I am so used to a hierarchical structure as it makes sense to me. I suspect MS was thinking about cloud storage such as SharePoint. My company attempted to get staff to use SharePoint instead of the traditional server drives. They gave up because of complaints and constant failures of SharePoint. My biggest issue with SharePoint was the flat file structure. A flat file structure is only usable if there is a sensible naming convention and meta data is used.

JC713 JC713 said:

Lol I love how it took 2 years for them to listen

Guest said:

I'd really like to see AeroGlass come back too.

Pulagatha said:

And what about aero? Will it be included in Threshold update?

I hope they bring AeroGlass back too.

1 person liked this | hood6558 hood6558 said:

Surely there are many people at M$ who don't agree with Ballmer's carnival huckster approach (tell the suckers what they want and make them think they like it). Many of them are probably working quietly in the background trying to make Windows better, hoping that the new CEO will have the sense to see what's obvious, that the present and future landscape requires multiple custom versions and not the "unified user experience" crap that top management has been pushing lately. The smart ones know that people love options, the ability to customize something to their own satisfaction, because it lets them express individuality in a cookie-cutter world. Take the automotive industry as an example; those guys have it down - 40 brands available in the U.S., dozens of models from each brand, hundreds of options to choose from, in every color of the rainbow. How boring it would be if all cars were black like in the 1930's, and the only option was an AM radio. That's what the Ballmer crowd accomplished with Windows 8 - boring, simplified, options removed instead of added. There should be as many different versions as the market demands, including a totally streamlined version for gamers, lite versions for those with entry-level hardware, and full pro versions with all the options. All versions should include the option to remove (not just hide) any built-in Windows crap you don't want, including media players and browsers. If they can't or won't adapt to the changes, the Microsoft Era will soon end. With high-end Linux gaming and Steam OS on the horizon, it's time for M$ to remove head from ass...

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

There should be as many different versions as the market demands, including a totally streamlined version for gamers, lite versions for those with entry-level hardware, and full pro versions with all the options. All versions should include the option to remove (not just hide) any built-in Windows crap you don't want, including media players and browsers. If they can't or won't adapt to the changes, the Microsoft Era will soon end. With high-end Linux gaming and Steam OS on the horizon, it's time for M$ to remove head from ***...
Thats exactly the way I feel.

Railman said:

The changes if they happen will be good but 2015 is a long way off. I doubt if the PC industry will be impressed. The competition will be happy.

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