There's been a lot of silliness and angst about Windows 8 supposedly dropping the Start button, the first time this central user interface has been absent from Windows since its debut in 1995. There's just one problem: The Start button isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's being made more prominent than ever in Windows 8.
To understand what I mean by this, consider the recent news that the Start button--more correctly called the Start Orb, but whatever--has been removed from Consumer Preview-era builds of Windows 8. I corroborated this rumor in my own post, logically titled Start Orb Removed In Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
While it's technically true that the Start button/Orb, which used to adorn the left end of the taskbar on the Windows desktop, is missing in action, most people are missing out on two salient points. First, the Windows desktop is not the primary user interface in Windows 8 anymore. That's the Start screen.
Second, the Start button isn't gone, and it's not going away at all. In fact, it will be present on every single Windows 8 device sold going forward. Here's a picture of it:
Look! A real Start button, on a real Windows 8 slate!
And here's why I know this. As my Windows 8 Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera revealed last month, a Windows Key button is required for any PC or device to get the Certified for Windows 8 logo from Microsoft. This hardware button replaces the Windows button, and it will be present on all PCs and devices that come with Windows 8 preinstalled. And unlike the old taskbar-based software button, this hardware button, the Windows Key button, will be always on and always available, no matter which Windows 8 user experience--Start Screen or desktop--you're using.
That's why the Start button was removed from the desktop. It's superfluous now.
As for you people who will upgrade to Windows 8 on your legacy PCs, you already have a Windows key on your keyboard too. And for the tiny, tiny minority of you that don't, well, please feel free to use the CTRL + ESC keyboard combo. That works fine too. Even in Windows 8.
I'm not sure why this was such a big deal. But it's just common sense, really.
Update: I've had to explain to a couple of people via email that mouse users aren't in the lurch either. From the desktop, you can still mouse over the lower left corner of the screen to access a Start screen pop-up which, when clicked, works just like the Start button did in the Developer Preview. Everyone's included. No compromises.