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Windows 8.1 "Blue" may see Microsoft bring back the Start button

Microsoft is rumoured to be building a new version of Windows 8 that will have an option to boot to the traditional Windows interface instead of the "Metro"-style Start Screen used in the current edition of the PC and tablet operating system.

The change, which users will have to switch on, is coming in Windows 8.1, also known as Windows Blue, according to The Verge.

Blue is the follow-up to Windows 8, which was launched in October 2012, and will reportedly be released this year. Microsoft has publicly stated that it is tightening the release cycles for new versions of its flagship operating system and acknowledged in March that the company's employees are "working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as 'Blue.'"

However, the chances of the final product being called "Windows Blue" were "slim to none," Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of corporate communications, said at the time.

The Verge cited unnamed sources as saying the Redmond-based firm was currently testing Windows Blue builds "that include an option to boot directly to the traditional desktop" with the "hot corner functionality, for access to the Charms and Start Screen [remaining] intact if the boot to desktop option is enabled."

As further evidence that Microsoft plans to revive its traditional Start Menu and Start button, The Verge pointed to "references to a 'CanSuppressStartScreen' option in early builds of the Windows 8.1 registry," as spotted on MyDigitalLife's forums.

The site's sources indicated that the current Windows 8 interface would remain the default one for an updated version of the OS, however, and that it's "highly unlikely" that Microsoft would push out a traditional Windows look as anything but an extra option for users.

Microsoft's Modern-style UI - formerly known as "Metro" - as built for Windows 8 has met with sharp criticism from some corners. The interface, optimised for PCs and mobile devices with touch screens, hasn't been well received by many Windows users who still depend on keyboard-and-mouse configurations.

Business and organisational Windows customers have been particularly hostile to the UI change, perhaps Microsoft's most radical since introducing a graphical interface for the first time with 1985's release of the first Windows system shell on top of its MS-DOS operating system.

As to whether Microsoft is really planning to revive its traditional UI as an option for Windows 8 holdouts, there's some recent history that suggests the software giant is capable of backtracking at times to placate vocal Windows users. The Windows Aero visuals incorporated in 2007's Windows Vista release were derided by many Windows users as nothing but resource-hogging eye candy — and were subsequently downplayed in Windows 7, released in 2009.