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Why is there no Windows 8 start menu?
Actually, there is -- it has just been radically reworked and made into a completely different type of experience in Windows 8.
One of the big goals with Windows 8 was to create an operating system that could work on both conventional mouse-and-keyboard PCs and the new breed of touch-driven devices coming into the marketplace. Windows 7 had a number of concessions to touch input, such as an onscreen keyboard, but they were by and large designed as afterthoughts, and it showed.
With Windows 8, Microsoft decided to make major changes throughout the OS to make the Windows 8 interface touch-accessible. This included changing the Windows 8 start menu to use a full-screen, touch-driven model, akin to the tiles found in Windows Phone (or the pages of icons in iOS or Android). This made the icons easier for a finger to hit on a display of most any size.
Unfortunately, the conventional start menu that has been around since Windows 95 has been removed entirely. Microsoft has gone to some lengths to point out that user-harvested telemetry indicated that the start menu simply wasn't being used that often, since people were pinning commonly used applications to the Taskbar. The company also cited some legacy programming issues as reasons to omit a Windows 8 start menu.
The wisdom of Microsoft's focus on touch has been questioned, to put it mildly. Not everyone is using a touch-based system, for one, and even many of those that do use touch aren't enamored of the new menu. To that end, many people are looking to the next interim release of Windows 8.1 -- originally code-named Windows Blue -- to see if the new start menu and the other touch augmentations in Windows 8 are being modified.