Microsoft seems to be erasing all traces of the Start menu we all know and love, at least in Windows 8's default configuration. Last year's Developer Preview already responded differently to a click on the Start orb in Desktop mode, bringing up the so-called charm bar with a link to the Metro tile screen. Now, screenshots of a fresh Windows 8 build gathered by Neowin show the Start orb has disappeared.
Neowin suggests the orb can be summoned back by moving the mouse cursor to the bottom-left of the screen, although that simply brings up the Metro UI. In effect, the taskbar in Windows 8's Desktop interface will work chiefly as a launchpad for commonly accessed apps. With the old Start menu gone, being able to open applications quickly without having to switch to Metro will presumably be useful indeed.
I'm still not crazy about the Start menu's disappearance, but I can understand why Microsoft would ditch the orb: it invites users to expect an old behavior that's been excised. (I was surprised myself when clicking the orb brought up Windows 8's charm bar in the Developer Preview.) I just hope power users have an option to restore the old functionality in its entirety, at least if they intend to spend most of their time in Metro.