Her hesitancy to guarantee may have been a good idea -- Microsoft has been pummeled in the past for not making deadlines or dropping once-promised features -- but it was also another example of the company's communication strategy, which analysts have called "terrible" because it leaves the huge Windows ecosystem of developers, customers and OEMs clueless about what to expect.
From her comments, however, it sounded like there was less chance of a boot-to-desktop option. "We believe fully in the Start Screen and the model of having these live tiles," Larson-Green said at one point. And at another, she said that Blue would not sport what she called "major changes" from the current Windows 8, which could hint at a rejection of something that would let users bypass what Larson-Green reiterated is a crucial component of Microsoft's design, the Start Screen.
But she also gave mixed messages. "We're principled in the direction we're heading, but we're not stubborn," she asserted, hinting of changes. "We're not going to spite you."
The Start button may seem like a minor element for people to obsess over -- Larson-Green chided users for complaining about past design changes in the OS and said that they needed to "unlearn things" to move forward -- but it has become, no pun intended, a hot-button item, a flash point around which much of the criticism about Windows 8 has coalesced.
Start button complaints kicked off before the first public preview more than a year ago, and have continued unabated since. Critics seized on the omitted button, which had been central to Windows since mid-1995 with the launch of Windows 95, turning its disappearance into a referendum on Microsoft's design as it pushed touch and the new "Modern" user interface (UI) -- initially called "Metro" -- at long-time users.
A cottage industry has sprung up to provide workarounds that restore the Start button and menu, and a boot-to-desktop option, including both free and commercial tools. The latter has been best represented by Stardock's Start8.
Larson-Green's comment about the centrality of the Start Screen hints that, assuming Blue does offer a Start button, it won't do the same for the Start menu.
Blue, which Larson-Green declined to put an official name to, -- she simply called it "the next update to Windows" -- will go final before the end of the year, she and Reller said yesterday.