Users want a real Start menu on Windows 8, and Lenovo, the world's biggest PC maker, is happy to oblige. It just announced that Lenovo PCs will come with the Pokki app, which includes a real Start button and menu, not the useless Start button that will ship with Windows 8.1. Even worse for Microsoft: It lets users bypass the Windows Store to download apps and games.
Pokki announced on its blog today that the Pokki app will ship on new Lenovo Windows 8 PCs. According to GeekWire, the app will be on nearly all new Lenovo Windows 8 devices, starting with the IdeaPad and IdeaCenter, and then by the Think line.
The app appears as a Start button shaped like an acorn. Click it and a Start-like menu appears, including links to Documents, Music, Computer, and so on, as well as to recent apps you've run, and other apps. It also includes a search box and more.
In other words, it's a lot like the pre-Windows 8 Start button and menu.
Windows 8.1 doesn't really add a true Start button and menu to the operating system. It's true that if you hover your mouse over the lower-left-hand portion of the Start screen or in a Modern app, a button appears where the Start button used to be. But click it and you don't get a Start menu. Instead, it's a basic task switcher that switches you between the Start screen and whatever you were just doing. In other words, somewhat worthless, considering that there are a number of other ways you can do that in Windows 8.
Much more worrying for Microsoft than the addition of a Start menu is that the Pokki app also includes an app store where desktop apps can be easily downloaded. You get to the app store by clicking the acorn button, the same way you get to the Start menu.
Microsoft has been trying, without a great deal of success, to build up a solid collection of Windows 8 apps. But many of those apps are underpowered. Even worse is that Windows 8 lacks many popular apps that people want, including Instagram, Vine, Pandora, and Facebook. A recent study by Nick Landry, product manager at Infragistics, found that Windows 8 has only 54% of the most popular mainstream iOS apps. That's not just a problem for Windows 8 tablets, but for Windows 8 PCs as well.
Given that many desktop apps are more powerful than Windows 8 apps, it's not hard to imagine that many owners of Lenovo PCs will bypass the Windows Store and Windows 8 apps, and instead use Pokki to get desktop apps. And that, even more than the lack of a Start menu, can spell big problems for Microsoft and Windows 8.