Microsoft Has Made a Huge Mistake

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Microsoft's Metro Start Screen is about to go away. Image source: author.

If you're among the many PC users who absolutely loathe the unavoidable, tile-based Metro Start Screen introduced by Microsoft  in Windows 8, you're gonna love this.

According to WinSuperSite writer Paul Thurrott, the Redmond-based tech giant is gearing up to bring back the full-fledged Start Menu as an option in its next major revamp of Windows. What's more -- for Windows 8 app users who've ever wondered, "How do I escape from this full-screen monstrosity?!" -- the update should also introduce the optional ability to run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop.

Currently code-named "Project Threshold," in its broadest sense Microsoft's latest programming effort aims to further unify the look and feel of the interfaces between its PC, phone, and Xbox platforms.  

But Microsoft's decision to ditch the traditional Start Menu in favor of the Metro Start Screen has easily stood out as the most controversial -- and widely panned -- interface change to Windows 8.

Of course, Microsoft did partially address the resulting backlash by adding a Start button in Windows 8.1, but it merely takes users to the same Start screen, which can now share a wallpaper to make the effect less jarring -- clearly a halfway compromise.

Our bad ...
But if Microsoft allows these two historic features to return, isn't it effectively admitting that its shift toward the tile-based, full screen app-running Metro interface was a huge mistake?

At the very least, I think such a move would essentially acknowledge that Microsoft's bold user interface changes were simply too ambitious.

Now everything's obviously clearer in hindsight, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize it was a huge risk for Microsoft to ask hundreds of millions of stubborn Windows users to change their ways, especially considering the majority have relied largely on the same usage metaphor revolving around the traditional Start menu since its introduction nearly 20 years ago.

After all, recent IDC data indicates broader PC market shipments are expected to have fallen by double digits when all is said and done in 2013. That said, IDC also notes that as enterprise upgrades roll in and with Windows XP's end of life coming up in early 2014, the PC market should experience a subsequent stabilization at above 300 million units per year.  

But that's hardly reassuring for Microsoft shareholders, who've stood by helplessly as their company fails to grab meaningful market share in the fast-growing mobile and tablet device markets.

In the end, while Microsoft could very well find its footing in those markets over the long run, it's telling that even they've finally recognized their high-stakes gaffe.

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Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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