Windows 8: Telemetry Killed the Start ButtonFor those of us who tried the new Windows 8 preview or one of the release versions, we soon realized that the familiar Start button had vanished. Yes, I am talking about the Start button that first made an appearance with the release of the Windows 95 OS and has been sitting silently in the bottom left in all versions until now. So why did Microsoft decide to arbitrarily remove the Start button and send it riding into the wild blue yonder?

The answer to why Microsoft removed it and decided it wouldn’t be returned surfaced just this last week when, according to an article at PCPro, a Microsoft program manager claimed that, starting with the release of Windows 7, people were no longer using the Start button. This decision, per the article, went on to say that Microsoft, using telemetry, found that removing the Start button would not cause any undesirable effect on users. The word telemetry, in a non-dictionary definition, means that data is transmitted, from a distance, and does not affect user preferences. This does not mean, however, that Microsoft is spying on us without our consent; prior to installing or starting up a new PC using Windows 7, the user is asked if they would like to make ‘Windows better’ by sending back data to the mother ship.

So, while Microsoft critics continue to scream foul, my first impression after reading the thoughts expressed by a Microsoft honcho were these:

  • I have chosen to put the icons for the programs I use the most onto the taskbar.
  • I only use the Start button when I wish to access programs that I rarely use.
  • People are making way too much noise about the Start button disappearing.

However, like many of you, I have always found myself balking at purchasing another upgrade to the latest and greatest Windows OS. Generally, this is due to the cost associated with the upgrade, though I also have to admit that I will usually break down, after a period of time, and do the upgrade just to take advantage of the newest features. However, because I need an OS that will support older hardware, I have also experienced a need, over the years, to change direction. This was especially evident with the release of both Windows Vista and Windows 7 — neither of which support older hardware. To deal with this issue, I have kept and repaired an older laptop that is loaded with Windows XP, an OS that keeps this system up and running. Our other PC units are fairly new and happily function with the Windows 7 OS.

Is Microsoft out of touch with its users?

For anyone who has used an Apple iPad or Android tablet, the general consensus is that these devices that are not only easy to use, but fun. This is just the crest of the wave that is making a splash on the technology market. With that being said, I don’t think that Microsoft is out of the ballpark with the introduction of its touch screen tablet; rather, I think that it is right on the money. I believe that Microsoft and Google are both well aware that the future will be the tablet and the usefulness of the standard, non-touch desktop/laptop computer will go the way of the dodo bird.

I also believe that Microsoft still has a few aces up its sleeves that it hasn’t played. As an example, I am sure Microsoft still sees a profit in selling the Windows 7 OS since businesses, gamers, and professional users still need a full-blown operating system that supports non-touch PCs. I also believe that, even after the release of Windows 8, Microsoft will do what it has done before and allow certain computers to come preinstalled with Windows 7.

If you have a non-touch screen PC, should you upgrade to Windows 8?

For me, Windows 8 is just another means for an industry leader to fill its coffers. Let me explain. I already have a wife who is buying applications for her Apple iPad, while I’m buying applications for my Android smartphone and my Kindle Fire. So for me to sign into another ecosystem of applications from Microsoft and its developers just doesn’t make sense. I am already suffering from application overload.

However, this isn’t the only reason that I won’t be upgrading. The main reason comes down to ease of use. In Windows 7, if I wish to open a program that is not on my taskbar, I follow a simple, familiar procedure that requires the following steps:

  • Click on the Start button.
  • Choose Programs.
  • Click on the program icon and away I go.

Since Metro was designed for tablets, the process is not so simple. In fact, I personally find the keyboard and mouse a handicap in Windows 8 where the following steps are required to open a program:

  • You will have to install the program as a desktop icon or place it on the taskbar. Gone will be the days of having a clean, uncluttered desktop.
  • If you balk at installing the icon to your desktop and don’t set up a program icon, you will need to click on the left bottom of your screen to open Metro or press the Windows key.
  • Then you will be required to locate the program you wish to launch. This will require you to use your mouse or keyboard to scroll through the list of applications and programs you have installed.
  • You can then click on the program and it will take you back to the Desktop.

For me, this is too much of a hassle and, while I am sure that Microsoft received plenty of feedback as to why the Start button was still needed, it chose instead to ignore the public who will continue to need a full-blown OS minus Metro. Unfortunately, however, Microsoft seems to no longer need nor require any non-Microsoft drummers who once included the consumers that bought their Windows non-touch computers and the OEMs that supplied the hardware. However, I also realize that Microsoft needed something new and exciting to attract the masses and stop the flow to Apple and Android devices. But how can a company that beats to its own drummer and ignores the needs of its market hope to succeed?

So what do you think?

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by ebarrra