The battle for user choice in Windows 8.1

Start menu 'solutions' have divided the Microsoft faithful in a battle that could be avoided if users are given a simple choice

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Pro Win8.1 point No. 4: You can't give end-users all those choices. Unified experience is key.

Counterpoint: Are you kidding me? I can change my wallpaper; I can change my screensaver; I can tweak my Start screen tiles and more. But I can't opt-in on a Start menu?

Do you remember what Microsoft did with Windows Vista after the User Account Control fiasco? For those who don't recall, basically on Windows Vista whenever you tried to do just about anything, the UAC would pop up and say, "Are you sure about that?" It was the most annoying "feature" ever.

After much complaining Microsoft changed UAC, providing users, you guessed it, choice! Now we have a UAC slider with four choices: Leave the default UAC interaction (a more reasonable version), make it stricter, reduce it slightly, or turn it off altogether (aka MAC mode). Here I have a choice with regard to my security settings being on or off altogether -- but I'm not allowed the choice of an organized Start menu? That's ridiculous.

Pro Win8.1 point No. 5: If you want one so badly, you can install a third-party tool to restore it.

Counterpoint: Exactly. I've played with those tools. Some of them work quite well. And they are a very small installation, showing how little code it would take for Microsoft to provide the classic view "choice" I'm talking about.

However, several of these third-party options have also crashed my system, and one of them may have installed a virus (be careful where you go for these Start button restore apps). Is that what Microsoft really wants? To have a tug-of-war over the interface, in which users either stay off Windows 8 altogether or install potentially harmful third-party options? Whatever happened to the customer always being right? I keep hearing "Windows your way," which isn't accurate. More like "Windows our way, make it your way, resistance is futile."

Pro Win8.1 point No. 6: Then just stick with Windows 7 if you want a Start menu so bad. (Note: This is one of my favorites, and I wait for it in every debate on Windows 8.)

Counterpoint: Really? Just stick with Windows 7? Did you know Windows 8.1 is full of new features? Some of the best new features are actually security features. So you are telling me that for the sake of a Start button attached to a Start menu to circumvent the Start screen and Apps menu clutterfest, users should be denied the best security? Is that really the recommendation you want to make?

Pro Win8.1 point No. 7: Well, no. But I still can't believe you won't get over this Start button thing!

Counterpoint: I can live without it. But I want Microsoft to provide the choice. And I want a better way of managing the Apps screen, too. It's a hot mess. You can alter the view of apps, but you can't organize them into buckets for shortcuts. Windows my way, indeed.

An open plea to Microsoft

Microsoft, with all due respect, I truly appreciate Windows 8 (and now 8.1), but I have to ask that you reconsider the value of a classic view (Start button/menu) option.

All users deserve the benefits of Windows 8.1 security without having to relearn their desktop interface. Yes, I know I sound like the crazy person who should just "get over it" as I've heard recently. But "get over it" is not a solution, nor is it meaningful advice. Better advice is to heed the maxim, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The war of words I had with my fellow Windows-loving client-side MVPs showed me that the battle was, and remains, avoidable.

I'm looking forward to what you have in store for the next iteration of Windows. Perhaps that one will truly be Windows our way or, better yet, Windows any way we like.

This story, "The battle for user choice in Windows 8.1," was originally published at Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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