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Today was the first day of Microsoft’s Build conference in San Francisco, and the company announced the long-awaited return of the Start Menu Windows 8.1’s forthcoming Update 1. That’s not all: Microsoft also announced “Universal Windows apps,” which will bring the company another step closer to its vision for a unified Windows experience, sometimes referred to as the Threshold Initiative.

According to a post on Neowin, Microsoft will put the Start Menu and its column-style menu back into Windows 8.1 when the first update is released later on in 2014. The post also says that users will also gain the ability to “run modern apps in a windowed environment too,” relieving one of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 roughly two years after it was introduced. As you can see in the image above, one of the cooler features of the returned Start Menu is the way it seems to blend the old-style menu with the “Modern” style layout that Windows 8 ushered in.

And while that’s pretty big news, it’s also kind of a sorry state of affairs. The big story out of Build is the fact that Microsoft is moving backwards to an older version of its product? It’s nice that the company’s finally listening to its fans (and critics), but I can’t help but feel embarrassed that this is one of the big takeaways from the first day of its yearly developer’s conference.

Anyway, the Start Menu and the return of windows in Windows isn’t all they had to offer today. Another post on Neowin reports that Microsoft introduced Universal Windows Apps, giving developers the ability to write code for one program, and have it compile for Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox One. Essentially, it’ll take the onus off of developers to make subtle variations to their apps so the full range of Windows users can use them; now, they’ll only have to do it once and the app will be available for everyone.

That’s pretty huge, and does represent a big step forward for Microsoft. It’s nice to see that the company can finally find something resembling a vision. Hopefully the fruits of these labors will materialize soon, and Windows can start luring in users because they actually like the OS, not because it’s just what they know best.

[Source: Neowin (1), (2)]

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