Up until Windows 8 was released to manufacturing on Aug. 15, I held out a slim hope that Microsoft would do the right thing: Make the interface tentatively known as Metro optional and bring back the Start menu. Obviously, that didn't happen. So I have a simple message for Microsoft:
Metro is just fine on a tablet. Metro is very nice on a smartphone, as long as you don't have a ton of apps. But Metro never, ever belonged on a desktop or laptop screen. No way. Uh-uh. What were you thinking?
[ Read "Windows 8 review: Yes, it's that bad" by InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard. | Download InfoWorld's Windows 8 Deep Dive special report, which explains Microsoft's new direction for Windows. | Stay current on key Microsoft technologies in our Microsoft newsletter. ]
Microsoft, you need to let desktop and laptop users get rid of Metro and you need to restore our old friend the Start menu. I know, I know, you've moved on. But it needs to come back. You don't even need to bring it back yourself. Just restore the APIs in the Preview version of Windows 8 that allowed third parties to write utilities that re-create the Start menu.
That's it! Two easy requests. No nits to pick -- just those two things. In fact, not just me, but some of your staunchest supporters figured you would relent and take those two painfully obvious steps before you released the final version.
Yes, I know you want everyone to move to Metro, and you figured shoving it in the desktop/laptop user's face is the way to do that. But admit it: You made a mistake. On the bright side, it should be easy to fix. You might even be able to roll it into Windows 8 SP1.
I realize the chances you will listen to me are ... not good. But I know you guys love to collect data about Windows usage patterns. When the multitudes run away in horror from desktops and laptops running Windows 8, you will have lots and lots of data to play with. And it's not going to be pretty. There won't be a pony in there.
Now, I know what you're going to say: People can keep buying Windows 7 retail for a year after Windows 8 ships and for at least two years preloaded on hardware by PC makers. If people don't like Windows 8, they don't have to get it, at least not for a long while.
But I have a couple of problems with that. One is that there are some very attractive enhancements in Windows 8 that have nothing to do with Metro. I asked Woody Leonhard, who wrote the definitive InfoWorld review of Windows 8 along with the forthcoming "Windows 8 All-in-One for Dummies" book about those improvements. Here's his response:
Top desktop enhancements to Win8? There are many! Really, if it weren't for the damn propensity to flip out to Metro from time to time, I'd be happy with using Win8 with a mouse. Just off the top of my head: world-class integrated antivirus, UEFI support and signed OS binaries (the Linux folks hate it, but I think it's tremendous), greatly improved wireless networking, new Task Manager, Do Not Track in IE, better sandboxing in IE 10 (which may run in Win7 -- we still don't know), roaming user profiles for Microsoft accounts, Hyper-V, and Storage Spaces for fully redundant hot backup of all data files.