Anybody who’s read this blog for any length of time has witnessed me repeatedly and enthusiastically recommending Stardock’s great product, Start8, as a Windows start menu add-in/replacement for Microsoft’s current flagship OS. In fact, I run it on every single one of my Windows 8 machines, which means I’ve purchased six copies of the program, according to the number of keys I see registered in my account at the Stardock website. The program normally goes for $5, but if you look around online you can usually find coupons for 20% off or thereabouts, which brings the price down to an eminently worthwhile $4 a pop.
With a version number of 0.5, you *know* it’s an early beta release!
That’s why my ears perked up earlier this week when I read announcements on the usual Windows 10 news sources (for me that means Thurrott.com, Neowin.net, and WinBeta.org) that Stardock was releasing a beta version of their menu replacement for Windows 10, to be called Start10. Very quickly after digging in, however, I discovered an expensive catch: you must either buy a standalone license for Stardock’s bundle product called Object Desktop Manager ($50 new, $35 upgrade from other Stardock products, annual renewal fees apply) or a subscription to same ($10 for the first month, $4 a month thereafter, continues until you manually turn it off) to gain access to this software.
I’ve got to say that while Start10 appears to be a worthy successor to the excellent Start8 product, I’m more than slightly miffed at the tactics that Stardock is using to capitalize on interest in Start 10, to the tune of nearly ten times the cost for the product by itself (for the upgrade price, 12-plus times for those who might have to buy a new Object Desktop Manager license). Ditto for “encouraging” buyers to opt into a recurring subscription license that requires a manual opt-out to escape from. Sigh.
Having bitten the bullet and coughed up $35 to see what’s what with the new Start10 beta I can say it’s a lot more like Start8 (and the Windows 7 Start menu environment it was modeled after) than the native Start button environment on Windows 10. It looks and handles pretty much the same as previous versions, and brings with it the virtues of comfort and familiarity that convey from the previous version, and with my own personal Windows history back to the XP, Vista, and Windows 7 environments with which it establishes strong continuity. But I’ve learned to navigate in Windows 10 pretty darn well without Start10, and for now, I’m installing the beta only on one of my test rigs (the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7130).
While the program is nice, and works as expected, I can’t help but think it’s at least questionable, if not an outright rip-off, to use the desire from Windows-heads like me to check out a new release of a well-crafted and highly usable Windows 8 program for Windows 10 to extract significantly more money from its would-be users than they have to pay for the Windows 8 equivalent (and will probably have to pay for the standalone version, if history is any guide, after Windows 10 goes into public release). Stardock management: are you reading this blog post? Does this opinion swing any weight with you? If so, please make the beta available for free, or let people pay $4 to try it out, instead of sticking it to them to the tune of significantly more. I always thought Stardock was a standup outfit that built great products, but this whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth. Please fix this, and restore my enthusiasm and respect for your otherwise great products, or at least give early adopters a good reason to pay extra to opt into the beta version early. As things stand, I just don’t get it right now. And until the price gets real, perhaps you shouldn’t get Start10, either!