An update to Windows 8 will revive the familiar start button in a bid to overcome poor sales of the OS software, which usually accounts for around half of Microsoft’s profits.
Windows 8 has been blamed for falling worldwide PC sales, with users describing it as confusing. The update, codenamed ‘Blue’ and due within the next few weeks, is a chance for the company to respond to customer feedback.
The news was announced on an internal Microsoft blog on Monday, although it hasn’t been confirmed that the start button will definitely make a comeback. However, it’s very likely as that one small feature has been familiar to Windows users for the past 17 years.
The new tiled layout has come in for substantial criticism over the course of the past few months, with bestselling W8 apps being Stardock, which installs the start button and ModernMix, which allows users to run tiles on an old-style desktop.
"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," Bob O’Donnell of research company IDC said.
"The costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices."
The issues with Windows 8 have been likened to those seen in 2007 with Vista, with Microsoft essentially telling customers to "take it or leave it”, with the unfortunate result for the company that customers have been doing the latter.
Some analysts believe that there will be no return of the start button due to the nature of the OS, which reportedly makes it difficult to implement major changes. Gartner researcher Michael Silver says that Microsoft didn’t listen to customers during W8 development on the start button issue and are unlikely to start now.
It’s more likely, he believes, that the update will allow users to bypass the tiles and go straight to the old-style, familiar desktop.
Bill Gates recently defended the OS, saying that: "It takes the benefits of a tablet and the benefits of a PC, and it's able to support both of those – so if you have Surface, Surface Pro, you've got that portability of a tablet but the richness of a PC in terms of the keyboard, Microsoft Office of a PC."
"Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device."
However, poor sales would seem to contradict the Microsoft founder’s opinion as Surface has a minimal share of the tablet market so far. According to one report, whilst businesses are buying W8 licenses, it seems that many are still installing Windows 7, which retained the familiar start button.