Rumors about Windows 8.1 have been swirling for a while. Today, Microsoft is weighing in with official details. Numerous sites have posted previews of the OS otherwise known as Windows Blue. As expected, they confirm that the Start button is back—sort of.
The Verge explains that the Start button is making its return mostly in spirit. The Windows logo will now appear in the taskbar by default, and you won't be able to get rid of it. Clicking the button will bring you to the Modern UI Start screen instead of an old-school Start menu, though.
According to The Verge, the Start screen now includes an updated All Apps view that can be organized to more closely resemble the Start menu. The view can be set as the default destination whenever the user hits the Start button. You'll also have the option of bringing your desktop background into the Start screen.
Speaking of the desktop, users will now have the option of booting directly to it.
There are other enhancements coming in Windows 8.1, and The Verge has a separate article covering them. Among the additions: a more flexible lock screen that can accept Skype calls, new snapping behavior that supports more side-by-side windows on larger displays, and intelligent SkyDrive integration that downloads files as they're needed. Microsoft is promising deeper Bing-powered search integration, as well.
Windows 8.1 will reportedly include updates to numerous applications, including the Modern UI version of the Control Panel. A couple of entirely new lifestyle apps have also been added. The Health & Fitness app handles things like calorie tracking, while the Food & Drink app takes care of recipes and shopping lists. Interestingly, the latter allows you to flip between recipes using hand swipes that are detected by the webcam. Camera-based gesture tracking has interesting potential, although it seems Microsoft may only be using it to aid cooks with food all over their hands.