Interview: Stardock's CEO gives an update on Start8

Editors note: Please read our disclaimer on Neowin's relationship to Stardock in our forums.

Windows 8's Metro interface lacks the traditional Start button and menu we have seen in the past several Windows operating systems. A lot of people felt it was a mistake for Microsoft to abandon this setup. Among them was Stardock CEO Brad Wardell. In March, Stardock released Start8, a free app for Windows 8 that added a version of the Start button and menu to the Metro UI.

There hasn't been an update for Start8 since March but in a new interview, Wardell tells us to expect a small update later in July, along with a major new version coming for the launch of Windows 8 this fall. He also gives us an interesting response when we asked him about Microsoft's recent statement on why they decided to get rid of the Start button, along with other topics.

First, can you tell us about how many downloads of Start8 have you had since you released the first version?

The interest in the betas of Start8 has been phenomenal. I think it demonstrates that a lot of people -- and I'd argue most people -- expect their Windows desktop to have a concise and effective way to get to their stuff. The Start button and its corresponding menu is the result of decades of refinement in usability. The removal of it in Windows 8 is baffling to me. Normally, user experience shifts occur to due underlying technological changes. DOS to Windows, for example, occurred because the underlying technology allowed us to transition to an environment that was both easier to use and more productive. By contrast, the Windows 8 desktop is clearly a step back -- they removed functionality in an effort to appeal to a different demographic -- content consumers.

A Microsoft rep recently said they decided to do away with the Start button for Windows 8 due to Windows 7 users not using the button any more in favor of pinning applications to the task bar. Do you feel this is a good enough explanation for their reasoning?

My answer to that is: Shenanigans.

You have said in the past that while you like Windows 8 as a whole, in your opinion the Metro interface doesn't work well with PCs. Have you seen any improvements since the Release Preview version of Windows 8?

No. Microsoft has essentially decided to focus Windows 8 around content consumers instead of producers. I've seen people argue that only power users are unhappy with the Windows 8 user experience. But really, it's anyone who is trying to produce something with a personal computer that is going to find their productivity diminished.

You have not made any updates to Start8 since March. When can we expect the next update?

We have an update due this month which will allow the computer to boot directly into the desktop. Our main effort has been on the release version which is due out this Fall that is designed to allow users to use Windows 8 as a pure desktop experience OS.

Why have you decided to wait until the launch of Windows 8 to release a major new version of Start8?

We've been holding back on new features because we didn't want to deal with the case where a feature gets broken by a beta update to Windows 8. It would just cause us unnecessary support issues. We are also not certain how Microsoft will, from a political point of view, feel about some of the things we're doing and would not want them to make changes that would make it harder to do some of the things we're doing.

How much interest have you received from PC makers about adding the Start8 feature to their Windows 8 PCs?

Several of the major PC OEMs have already contacted us about pre-loading Start8 during the 2013 cycle. Essentially, they're going to wait and see what the reaction to the Metro / Desktop hybrid experience in Windows 8.

Will anyone still be able to download and/or purchase the final version of Start8 when it is officially launched?

Oh yea. Start8 is going to be freeware still for non-commercial use.

What other plans does Stardock have for Windows 8-based products?

We have a number of WinRT (Metro) projects in development that are catered more to the mobile space. We're pretty excited about Windows 8 based phones and tablets. A lot of our desktop-related development will focus on making sure PC users are able to use Windows 8 as a high powered workstation OS. Windows 8 really is significantly better than Windows 7 in most respects. The big problem with Windows 8 is the design -- the decision to treat the desktop as some sort of legacy box. Most Windows users will continue to be using it on a desktop PC (or laptop). I love my tablets and phone but there is a time and place for each different environment. Trying to create a one-size-fits-all solution is a mistake. Our job will be to make sure that users can use their device as best suits their personalized needs.

Do you see Stardock releasing any Metro-style applications or games for Windows 8 specifically for tablets?

Definitely. We're liking what we see in WinRT. I love my iPad, for example. But I'd be pretty irritated if MacOS suddenly forced iOS as my desktop OS. Looking at an app designed for a 10 inch screen on a 28 inch monitor is a kind of torture.

We would like to thank Brad for his time.

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I believe its a question of time till people get used...

I remember going from windows 3.11 to windows 95, I hate the start menu... I would put folders with shortcuts to the apps in my desktop and arrange them as if it was windows 3.11... a few months later I started seeing the advantages of the new start menu and started using it properly... going from Windows 2000 to XP the same I would tend to enable the classic menu on windows XP for a couple of months till I see and get used to the advantages of the revamped new version...

now is a big transition from the start menu to the start screen, but I think its a question of time till we found the advantages and get used to it... i have been using W8 since the CP Release and found a way of customizing my start screen so that is doesn't get as much in the way.... the only thing that I don't like is the apps not being windowed... for a power user the window model is a major thing regards productivity. We can argue that we can pin the apps to a small part of the screen, but again it looks like it doesn't belong there its weird and takes away from the workspace... I hope that for the final release the recreate the apps mail/calendar/music/reader etc... so that they have a desktop mode... I know that u can use other apps to do that, but since those are integrated they should just work in both worlds and be interconnected...

abysal said,
Bah Windows 8 is for clickers. You know who you are.

Just as pointless comments are for trolls and haters. You know who you are.

It makes me laugh the way people are deriding Stardock for daring to give those of us that don't want to just swallow Microsoft's crap an extra option. That's the problem with tech forums these days, too many product cheerleaders and not enough informed users.

I say good on Stardock. They're working to give those of us that have problems with Windows 8 as it is an extra option, and they're releasing it as freeware. And you know what's GREAT about freedom of choice? If you don't like it you don't have to install it. Magic, huh?!

Javik said,
It makes me laugh the way people are deriding Stardock for daring to give those of us that don't want to just swallow Microsoft's crap an extra option. That's the problem with tech forums these days, too many product cheerleaders and not enough informed users.

I say good on Stardock. They're working to give those of us that have problems with Windows 8 as it is an extra option, and they're releasing it as freeware. And you know what's GREAT about freedom of choice? If you don't like it you don't have to install it. Magic, huh?!

You don't understand... They drink the Microsoft kool-aid, and YOU MUST too If you want something else, you're an idiot. And never forget that they know BETTER than you what is good for you...

TCLN Ryster said,
Don't like it? Don't buy it. Simple.

Amen; there's a ton of different ways you can customize the OS, just because one person likes or hates it doesn't mean everybody is obligated to agree. This kool-aid bullsh't is exactly that... unless you just now discovered Windows for the first time you'd know you can change it up if you wanted to. That said, personally this sort of thing isn't for me but it's an interesting alternative to the others.

TCLN Ryster said,
Don't like it? Don't buy it. Simple.

Yeah. Nobody should EVER customise their OS. They should just leave it exactly how it comes to the box. I mean we all know that users are never right, we must just swallow whatever these companies throw at us and never dare to customise it to fit our own needs.

If you ever work in a company's PR department, remind me never to buy a single product that they produce.

Javik said,
If you don't like it you don't have to install it. Magic, huh?!

We've been saying that to WIN8 h8rs forever now, yet you keep posting.

In all seriousness though, if I buy a PC that the OEM has somehow screwed up, I'll be looking to turn it into a signature series PC asap.

TCLN Ryster said,
Don't like it? Don't buy it. Simple.

I like the speed. I like the idea. I like the resource usage. I don't like the process of changing between Metro and desktop for every different application I need to run.

If it doesn't work right, don't put it in the product at all. Make it all Metro or nothing. It's silly the way they have it now. They obviously changed the Start Menu midstream, or wouldn't have been there to begin with, so why remove it from use now. Just wait until the next version when more apps are Metro?

Couldn't agree more.
Making severe and drastic changes and expecting your customers
to follow along with no option to transition is insane.
And all the cheer leaders are brutaly ignorant. Saying crap like
"if you don't like it then don't install it" etc

A lot of are us are going to enjoy saying i told you so to the douches holding the pom pom's

For all the kids from here who wander why several of us want to use Windows 8 with Start8 and not plain vanilla Windows 8, here's a few reasons:
1. we like the speed of Windows 8, the new explorer features, the new task manager, so we'd like to use Windows 8 instead of 7
2. we don't like / don't need Metro so a way do bypass the new start screen and bring back the start menu is good for us

Add 1+2 and if you do the math you'll get that for us, Windows 8 + Start8 might be a winner.

Before bashing us for not "adapting" to new trends, be aware that many of us are content producers, programmers etc., who do more that checking a Hotmail account and browsing two sites a month using a dumbed down, sandoxed IE. We don't need toys, but real tools. For us, on the PC side, the metro start screen has no use.

Edited by Dot Catrix, Jul 3 2012, 8:22pm :

Mortis said,
.....

Sometimes I wonder.
Hardly ever wander, known to meander occasionally.

There will come a time when you will need metro, even if you don't like it. Then, it may even grow on you.

SirPeterPan said,
You talk like you represent some "special class". Guess what, you don't.

Metro and Start Screen work fine for content producers as well.

well you can't know that because Windows 8 is not done yet

But anyway I respect people who like Windows 8. I respect their need for a flashy, multicolor, full-screen launcher... to launch Angry Birds and other useless apps a simple website can replace

Seriously... who needs a Netflix app? Or a IMDb app?... The website isn't enough?

myxomatosis said,
.....

And I also respect those who are fighting to ensure their path to obsolescence.

Seriously who need an IT pro who thinks the past made the best most secure fastest operating systems out there.

Chica Ami said,
Windows 8, without Metro, start screen and ribbon UI for the explorer, it's just another Windows 7. =D

What about 95,98,2000,xp,vista and 7?...

Chica Ami said,
Windows 8, without Metro, start screen and ribbon UI for the explorer, it's just another Windows 7. =D

Indeed, without those things Windows 8 becomes something which can be replicate with a few freeware apps on Windows 7 (slight performance boost aside).

I've gotten used to not having a start button, but in terms of productivity, I still feel like having to go back to metro to access programs is a step back (I don't want to pin every single program I use to the start bar - too clustered and there are far too many anyway).

i tried it and removed it after 5 minutes metro start screen way advanced than this
anyway its about more choices if someone wants it then its ok but im not going to install it in any pc

subcld: You are aware that the menu Start8 shows IS the Metro start menu? It just makes it smaller and avoids the full screen switch which is distracting.

I purchased Stardock Fences when it was released - they had so many features advertised as coming soon.

Its been a couple of years now with no update. I guess they got bored once the money had come in.

Orange Battery said,
I purchased Stardock Fences when it was released - they had so many features advertised as coming soon.

Its been a couple of years now with no update. I guess they got bored once the money had come in.


That was one of the only apps that I liked from Stardock and then they completely failed to bring any new features. But that just reminded me why I do not buy Stardock products most of them like Start8 are absolutely useless and just a money grab that will not have any useful updates.

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