Windows 8.1 update 3 or Windows 9: When will the Start Menu return?

New leaked screenshots suggest the Start Menu will return in Windows 9, rather than Windows 8.1 Update 3

Some further light has been shed on the reworked Start Menu Microsoft may be planning to introduce in the "next version" of Windows, with evidence strongly suggesting it will appear in Windows 9. 

New leaked screenshots, reportedly taken from Windows 9 ahead of its official unveiling, have revealed a Start menu consisting of two columns: one that functions much like the old menu and the other a Metro-style home for Live Tiles and modern apps.

The shots also reveal the Windows Store in windowed mode, which suggest a move away from the full-screen view for all modern apps introduced from Windows 8 onwards.

Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing, recently said at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference that the firm has been "hard at work" on the next version of Windows.

During his time on stage, he described the new iteration of the Start Menu as better for its inclusion of Live Tiles and modern apps.

"The second feature we're thinking about is enabling modern apps to run windowed on the desktop versus only running in the immersive full-screen mode," he continued.

"This will enable you to run multiple modern apps side-by-side or layered or a combination of modern apps and desktop programs side-by-side or layered."

It is still unclear whether users will find this new generation Start menu on Windows 8.1 Update 3, or have to wait until Windows 9 is unleashed later next year, but this latest leak suggests the latter.

Start Menu rumours

Microsoft has been teasing Windows 8 users for some time now with the imminent return of the Start Button, but it seems the software giant's plans to bring it back are unlikely to reach fruition until even later next year.

Sources claim the Start Menu has now been delayed from April to June 2015, with Microsoft going back on reported plans to reinstate it with the second update to Windows 8.1 this summer. Windows 8.1 Update 2 will arrive next month.

Apparently now, the Start Menu is being kept back until the next "major" version of Windows, codenamed Threshold or Windows 9, which was rumoured to drop in spring 2015 but was thought to be pushed back to summer in favour of a third upgrade to Windows 8.1.

Recent rumblings have negated this rumour, however, with sources claiming that Windows 8.1 Update 3 has been scrapped so that Microsoft can concentrate on Windows 9. The report comes from Mary Jo Foley, who has said that, while a third update for Windows 8.1 is now unlikely, smaller updates and fixes to be released monthly could see users through until the arrival of Windows 9/Threshold.

According to the same source, Windows 8.1 Update 2 will arrive on August 12, but will be much more low-key than Update 1 in that it won't be mandatory for users to download it. Rather than the larger update it had been pegged as, the "August update" will instead include just a few minor changes to design.

When it does arrive, the next Start Menu will likely be similar to that of Windows 7, with a list of apps and folders and a search bar included alongside another column of Live Tiles for Windows Store apps. This will address a major problem experienced by users, with the disappearance of the menu confusing many and proving hugely unpopular among Windows' fan base.

While the Windows 8.1 update did bring back the Start button, this merely took users back to the Start screen and did not reintroduce the much-missed menu itself. But even with Microsoft teasing its return with Windows 9 in 2015, there's no word on how much the Threshold update might set users back.

Back in April, commenters told IT Pro of their annoyance with Microsoft's decision to ditch the button, with one revealing that some users have resorted to installing unofficial replacements such as Windows 7 Shell' in order to restore the feature.

Many enterprise customers have reportedly shunned Windows 8, though the company's decision to include the Start Menu in their next update could go some way towards encouraging those hesitant users to upgrade after all.

This article was first published on 03/06/14 and has been updated multiple times (most recently on 04/08/14) to reflect new rumours regarding Windows 8.1 Update 3.

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