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Has Microsoft finally killed off Windows 8 Start button?

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Microsoft is reportedly killing the Start button in Windows, a staple of Redmond's PC operating system since the landmark Windows 95.

Purported screen shots of Windows 8 Consumer Preview are reported to show a Super Bar that extends across the full bottom of the screen minus the Start button orb.

In place of the orb is a "hot corner" in the lower left-hand corner of the Windows 8 screen.

Clicking on this hot corner in the desktop or the tablet-friendly Metro mode will provide "a consistent way to access the Windows desktop and Start Screen in Windows 8".

The Start button, and Start menu, were introduced in Windows 95 in 1995, a cross-over PC operating system taking Windows into the mainstream consumer market.

In earlier versions of Windows, File Manager and Program Manager were used as a central point to launch applications and for shortcuts.

The Start button and menu have been modified over the years. Windows XP saw the menu expanded into two columns to separate installed applications and documents and system functionality. Windows Vista saw the button replaced with the Windows halo icon – which still persists in Windows 7. Windows XP introduced customisation, with the ability to pin certain applications to the task bar. Instant search was introduced in Windows Vista.

Any change to the way people interact with a popular piece of software poses risks for the manufacturer. You risk alienating customers comfortable with the familiar way of working. Microsoft's last great interface change was Office 2007, which introduced the much-hated Ribbon interface.

Microsoft could be on safer ground with the Start button, given it has said Windows users were only using the Start Button to access the items most commonly used on their desktops.

In a blog post here, Microsoft revealed it remained unhappy with the Start button, despite changes over the years, and hinted a major change was coming in Windows 8.

"Improved search, more room for all your programs, tiles that are alive with activity, and richer customization all suddenly become possible when the venerable, but aging, Start menu is transformed into a modern Start screen," a member of the Windows team wrote here. ®

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