I really don't understand the issue here. We need to remember that people in these forums are a MINORITY that is tech-focused. Most people don't care at all if they have a start menu or not. Now, somebody will tell me, I know "normal" consumers who miss it! Why of course there will be many, but they're still in the minority. Most people don't know or don't care. Granted this is a new UI they need to get used to, but when faced with both, the start screen is just easier to access than the start menu, at least visually. Mechanically, you need to press the windows key for both, so they're exactly the same.
I don't understand what start screen haters are missing so much from the start menu. It's the same functionality with a different layout that arguably makes much better use of your screen. The start menu is a vertical bloated list of everything you have. The start screen is horizontal - like your screen, statistics show a majority of widescreens these days - and you can simply pin what you want. Some people showed their start screen organization, let me contribute to that trend:
Now, as you can see, the start screen allows you to organize your stuff pretty well. If you're using a program, you access the start screen/menu EXACTLY the same: WIN key press. Alternatively, you hover your mouse to the lower left side of the screen. Both Win7 and Win8 have the same mechanic to open the Start menu/screen.
Now, if you're starting from scratch in Win7, you boot to the desktop and have to press WIN key to go to the start menu, then hover around to different folders for whatever you don't have pinned in the initial menu (which doesn't hold many slots to pin stuff, remember). With Win8, you boot to the start screen, no WIN key press needed. No hovering the mouse to see what different folders hold, everything's there in your view. Also, you can have around 60 tiles or so (guesstimate) visible in a 1080p screen, whereas the start menu only holds a few icons in its first menu. To this, add that the live tiles already give you information and many times you don't even need to open the program, whereas with the start menu you have to enter anything to see updated info.
As you can see in my start screen, I'm still experimenting with things since this is a very new UI, but notice how 4 months after the Win8 launch, yes there are still many apps missing, but the only desktop apps I NEED are Office and Photoshop. Office will be transported to Metro via Office MX gradually, most likely in the next year or two. As the new Metro environment progresses and expands, you can bet Photoshop will make an appearance. Of course I do have many other apps pinned to my taskbar in the desktop, which is mainly for backwards compatibility - things that don't yet exist in the Metro environment. However, having the new stuff does not preclude me from using the desktop stuff, and it's all easily accessible from the taskbar. There's another debate for Win RT and it's lack of desktop support on ARM architectures, but that doesn't affect this debate since we have access to ALL apps with an x86 CPU. However, my point is that, with all the metro apps that are available now that will inevitably improve and expand, if i bought an RT machine now the absolute ONLY application that I NEED that I wouldn't have access to, is Photoshop. One app out of a group of double digits is quite good progress if you ask me.
Which brings me to my next point, which I referenced before: pinning desktop apps to the taskbar, a habit that's the motivating thought behind it being so difficult for me to understand why some people find this start menu lack so offensive. Did you REALLY have that many apps pinned to your start menu? I've been a power user of Windows since the early 1990s and I certainly was a heavy user of the start menu. Once Vista came, I stopped looking around the start menu completely naturally: why look for stuff when I only need to press WIN key and type what I want, it'll search it for me? The same functionality is present in Win7, while Win8 makes it even EASIER: no WIN key press necessary since you're ALREADY in the start screen, just type. 1 step instead of two. Back to my initial topic though, once Win7 came (I don't remember if we could do this in Vista...) I remember I started pinning EVERYTHING to the taskbar. Why go through the WIN key press when everything was right there in front of me in the taskbar? MUCH easier to access than WIN key press + typing what I was looking for. Simply click the icon. The taskbar holds only so much in it in a 1080p display (the majority in the market today, look at statistics like these
), whereas the Win8 start screen holds the same in-your-face presentation philosophy PLUS improving it with much more space to show many more programs that, even better, are tiles that already show part of the important info they'll hold once you open them.
How is any of this worse? Seriously I do not understand. I get that people have habits, but we also had habits in the DOS era and we changed them. We had habits when all phones had stupid keys with 3 letters per number and we transitioned to touchscreens just fine. How is the Start screen, which is easily provable to make familiar processes simpler and easier make anything worse? It LOOKS different, big deal. It generally requires less key presses or none at all and makes much better use of your screen space (except multiple windows, I know, but it is obvious that this will come soon, most likely this summer with the Blue
wave). I get that people might find habits hard to break, but in my experience over the last 25 years of computing... if a new style/habit makes things easier/simpler, I'm all on board. Sure, it might take a few months to get used to it, but when you do things are simply unequivocally easier.
Finally, I'd like to tackle the debate of touch VS keyboard/mouse. I will not get tired of repeating this message to every individual who brings up this topic: having one more input method does not impede you from using another one. Read: having touch does not prevent you from using keyboard/mouse. My 22" 1080p monitor is a touch enabled one and I've watched myself evolve my use patterns over the last couple years with it - am I constantly reaching for my screen? NO. My arm would get tired. Having all 3 input methods hasn't changed that most of the time my hands are on the keyboard and so I use mouse and keyboard much more often in my desktop PC. However, having all three inputs has made me faster, more productive and dare I say it, it has given me a more comfortable experience with my PC. If I'm typing, I'll most likely use keyboard shortcuts. If my hand is on or near the mouse, I'll most likely click stuff with it. But you know what happens specially in the mornings, when I'm reading my RSS in the morning with a cup of coffee in my hands? My hands are already up, and so it's MUCH easier to simply touch the screen instead of breaking the line with what I'm looking at in order to look at the keyboard/mouse, take my hand to it, go back to look for where my cursor is in the screen, move it to where I was looking in the first place, and click. That's 5 steps to use the mouse instead of 1 with touch: while holding my coffee in my left hand I simply touch whatever link/objetc/what-have-you I was looking at with my right hand because it is more CONVENIENT, it is more comfortable and it is easier. More input methods are a GOOD thing and tech-enthusiasts need to start accepting that. The same people that now hiss at the thought of touch with their Windows OS are the ones who thought the mouse was the stupidest thing ever when mice came out and look how history played out.
To conclude this undeniably very long post - I have many thoughts on these issues... - let me emphasize what I'm trying to ingrain in people's minds: most of the complaints I hear about all these improved input options and simpler UIs are unwarranted. You might like something better or worse, but these reactions where users assure that they find this or that to be intolerable, useless, the seeds of doom for Microsoft... you need to get off your high horse and calm down. What you like best right now is not the best for everybody, nor necessarily for the future of computing. Statistics show what people do with their computers and Microsoft is focusing on statistics to tailor Windows mechanics towards the majority use, all while adapting old mechanics without breaking them (remember, same steps to access start menu/screen, etc). While the new stuff is simpler/easier and more in-your-face, the old mechanics still bring the same results. Things look different, but Win7 looked different from Vista, which looked VERY different from XP, which was a different galaxy compared to Win98, etc. There's certainly many complaints to be had for the new UI and Windows 8, it's surely a work in progress that won't be completely mature for another couple of years. The start menu thing however, is not worthy of all these outrageous feelings and whiny debate.