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Will Windows 8 Scrap the Start Button?

Leaked beta screens suggest the iconic feature may retire soon

Ever since Windows 95 came around complete with a revolutionary user interface and a set of killer Brian Eno sound clips, the start button has been a familiar visual staple in every Microsoft user's experience. All the 95 advertisements centered on the concept that the button was a portal to a whole new world of computing. Click it and be transported. It was a pinnacle of simple branding--just by calling it the start button, Microsoft made their whole operating system an inviting, exciting product. You don't think about the little nub much anymore, but it's still there, proudly bearing the colorful Windows logo, cheerily reminding you which operating system you're loyal to. But how necessary is it, exactly?

Seems like Gates and co. might be questioning its use as they move forward with the next Windows release. According to The Verge, the consumer preview version of Windows 8 is suspiciously lacking in start buttons. Other betas of the OS feature a new, redesigned version of the classic icon that fit in better with the sleek new aesthetic of the next generation of Windows. It would appear that Microsoft is still in talks as to whether the start button will make the final cut when 8 is released.

So how will we get easy access to all our programs and documents if there's no happy little button in the lower left corner? A Microsoft contact reports that if the start button is indeed left on the cutting room floor, it'll be replaced with a hot corner feature that pops up a quick menu whenever you toss your mouse into a certain part of the screen. I think the last time I used hot corners was way back in '96 when they triggered the screensaver feature (back when I had a CRT monitor and screensavers actually saved your screen from burning out). Personally, I much prefer clicking to get menu access rather than simply wandering into a corner with the mouse, given that the latter seems to happen by accident all the time no matter how careful you are with your cursor placement. I get the feeling that most PC users are with me on that point. I'm not so sure that hot corners are exactly the way to swap out the start button, but it's still possible that we'll see some nice, Mac-comparable dock action as the Windows 8 betas move forward. Really, all you need these days is quick access to your most commonly used programs and Windows Explorer to get to everything else.