Sinofsky successfully argued that it was crucial for the company to orient Windows PC users toward the look and feel of the all-new Windows 8 Surface touch tablet and the latest Windows Phone 8 smartphone models.
He might have won the internal debate. But convincing millions of home and workplace users of Windows that the switch was for their own good hasn’t gone well.
Microsoft’s bringing back of the Start button wouldn’t represent a retreat from the Windows 8-style touch interface or even have much practical benefit for Windows 8 users. This is a familiarity issue similar but perhaps more pronounced than the Apple Menu/dock controversy that surfaced at the debut of OS X. There are other ways that Microsoft could reconcile the desktop and touch interfaces of Windows 8 such as manually or automatically switching modes when using on a surface os opposed to on a couch or while standing.
The way Windows 8 works today, the default return to the Start screen is somewhat of an ad for the Windows 8-style interface. Don’t forget it’s there and hopefully developers won’t, either. The better way for Microsoft to push users to it, however, is to eat its own dog food and bring more settings and apps, especially Office, to that world. Engaging users with the entire screen would be much more powerful than dithering over a corner of it.