In three weeks the new Windows 9 (or whatever will be its name [Update: it's Windows 10]) will be unveiled. There are some rumors about its features but the most recurrent ones are related to the reintroduction of the Start button.
A feature introduced by Microsoft almost 20 years ago (with Windows 95) is the most awaited in 2014. Pretty curious, isn't it?
You can say that this is due to the laziness of the users and the cognitive overhead that a brand new UI implies. This is part of the truth, in my opinion. But there's also something else.
The Desktop Is The Key
When Windows 8 was released, millions of users around the world asked: "where is the desktop?" and, only after finding it, they asked "where is the Start button?" Having more than one window open and quickly switch from one to another has been one of the successful features of Windows since the release 3.0.
But at some point, Microsoft decided to switch to a more modern interface (in fact its name is Modern UI) designed mainly for tablets and smartphones. As Jakob Nielsen pointed out, it is not so bad on a small touch screen. But on a desktop wide screen it simply sucks.
So the desktop have been maintained (also because it would have been a commercial suicide to not have the support to millions of existing applications) but relegated to a small tile on the new Start screen.
The intention was clear: the future will be without application windows and with a unique interface for every device. The problem for MS is that, to date, Windows phones have a very small market share compared with Android and iOS so the reference market for Windows is still the PC world.
This is probably the reason that pushed Microsoft to reintroduce the Start button. For the happiness of millions of guys (like me) that don't have to explain a completely new UI every time their parents/friends/relatives buy a new PC.
Cover image taken from Wikimedia Commons (public domain).