Microsoft is in the midst of a multi-year effort to modernize the Windows interface, and one of the most iconic parts of Windows is up next. Microsoft showed off its new vision for the Start Menu during a recent Windows Insiders webcast. Live Tiles are fading into the background, and those pretty new icons are front and center.
In past years, Microsoft would roll out major Windows UI changes in new versions of the OS. However, it’s doing it piecemeal this time because it doesn’t do monolithic version updates anymore. We’ve been on Windows 10 for the last five years, and probably will be into the foreseeable future. Microsoft recently began rolling out a new batch of app icons to Windows 10, and the next step might be revamping the Start Menu.
According to the team, the new Start Menu concept is intended to take something “chaotic” and make it “uniform.” That’s quite a change in tone for Microsoft, which previously touted Live Tiles as a way to get useful information without opening apps. We can trace the lineage of Live Tiles all the way back to Windows Phone 7, which used these visual elements on the home screen to show pictures, messages, and more. Live Tiles also became an integral part of Windows 8, which tried to do away with the traditional desktop UI. Calling that a “disaster” would be an understatement — Microsoft had to reverse course in Windows 8.1.
Currently, Microsoft plans to continue supporting Live Tiles. You can disable them in the current builds of Windows 10, but the UI looks odd without them. With the new Star Menu, Microsoft is exploring ways to make the icons pop. The large colored squares are gone, replaced with translucent squares and rectangles with icons inside. Microsoft also showed the new design in both light and dark mode. It looks a lot like the new Windows 10X start menu for dual-screen devices.
While Microsoft is professing a commitment to Live Tiles, this feels like unenthusiastic lip service. It seems likely that Google will ditch Live Tiles entirely if Windows 10X and the tentative redesign shown in the livestream work out. This is still just an early preview of proposed design changes. It might take a long time for the new Start menu to become part of Windows.
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