If you notice anything different about Windows 11’s Start Menu, currently being trialled with Windows Insider participants, you can thank smartphone platforms from Apple and Google.
Not everyone is happy with Microsoft’s efforts to reshape the Start Menu in Windows 11 — so much so that there is an apparent market for third-party replacements that allow users to change it.
The Start Menu has been front and centre in the Windows experience for well over two decades, and so even tiny changes have a big impact on those for whom it’s the first point of contact when running software on Microsoft’s platform. But smartphones, as well as touch and voice inputs, have forever changed what people expect from a desktop experience.
Per The Register, Microsoft recently admitted as much and explained that its research found that people “wanted a cleaner and simpler Start, and that since so many people have smartphones, design paradigms from those devices could successfully carry over into a new Start — being able to pan different pages with touch, for instance”.
Windows 11 is likely to roll out to the general public around October, in line with Microsoft’s historical spring/fall release cycle. However, with Windows 11, Microsoft will only release one feature update per year, versus the two it’s done since Windows 10 was released in 2015.
Some notable losses that Windows 10 users have lamented include the inability to resize the Windows 11 Start menu and the absence of Live Tiles in Windows 11. Live Tiles was Microsoft’s Windows 8 Metro answer to the iPad. In its place are pinned apps that can be moved around and rearranged.
Microsoft was experimenting with a Start Menu without Live Tiles early last year, but at the time said the experiments didn’t mean Live Tiles would vanish. But it seems that in Windows 11, Live Tiles will in fact disappear.
Microsoft is letting fans test Windows 11 through the Windows Insider program. The Beta channel will contain features that it will release in Windows 11, while the more unstable Dev channel will have features that are not tied to the next Windows 11 release.
Again, reflecting smartphone UIs, as noted by Neowin, the Start Menu is now aligned to the centre of the screen by default, rather than the left, but users can adjust it to the traditional look via Settings > Personalization > Taskbar.
Microsoft’s failure in smartphones was a sore point for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who claimed he was too busy dealing with the company’s Windows and browser antitrust problems to focus on the mobile market.
Gates declared in 2019 that not making Windows the world’s default “non-Apple” mobile operating system was his “greatest mistake ever”.
“In the software world it’s very particular for platforms…These are winner-takes-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard phone platform — non-Apple platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win,” Gates said.