Microsoft teased the return of the Start menu and running-Metro-apps-in-a-window back at the Build conference in April (pictured above), just after releasing Windows 8.1 Update 1. At the time, Microsoft said these changes would come to a future update of Windows 8.1, which various leaks pinned as being Windows 8.1 Update 2, which is rumored to arrive in August. Now, according to Mary Jo Foley’s sources, the Start menu is being pushed back until the Threshold release, due in 2015. Foley says these sources have “good track records,” so they’re probably reliable. Separately, Foley says windowed Metro apps are still on target for a Threshold release as well, rather than Update 2.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop. Note how Metro apps can now be minimized to the taskbar. But you can’t run those apps on the Desktop yet.
This leads to a rather pertinent, if obvious, question: What exactly will make it into Windows 8.1 Update 2? Microsoft’s still planning to make Windows 8.1 easier to use for mouse-and-keyboard users, but without those two major changes there aren’t really any sweeping changes that can be made. Microsoft could do a better job of detaching the Desktop and Metro experiences for non-touch users (the Metro interface still appears a lot more often than it should). It’s still a pain in the ass to navigate Metro apps with the keyboard (and keyboard shortcuts) too. [Read: How to install Windows 8.1 Update 1 for free.]
As for why the Start menu is being held back from Update 2, Foley’s sources didn’t seem to have an answer. Considering how easy it would be to add the feature, it’s probably not down to a lack of development or Q&A time. It’s more likely that Microsoft (and the world) sees Windows 8 as a lame duck, and that it isn’t worth blowing a huge back-of-the-box bullet point — “ALL NEW! The epic return of the Start menu!” — on an outgoing operating system. It is probably a better idea to just let Windows 8 slowly slide into obscurity, and then come back with a vengeance in Windows 9.
In the mean time, of course, you can always install a third-party Start menu replacement, and read some of our Windows 8 tips and tricks to make the mouse-and-keyboard experience a little less jarring. Some of them let you run Metro apps in a window on the Desktop, too. It does make you wonder why it has taken Microsoft years to add the same official functionality, when in most cases these third-party apps are created by just one or two developers…