Start menu on Lenovo Windows 8 PCs will nag you to install apps

Lenovo logoWindows users looking for something resembling the classic Start Menu that was stripped out of Windows 8 don't have to look too far. Several apps that roughly recreate the Start Menu's functionality can be downloaded and installed easily enough.

But some PC manufacturers are making Start menu replacements more visible to usersand we suspect not all PC users will appreciate the way they're going about it. SweetLabs, a company that makes one of these Start menu replacements, announced today that it has a deal with Lenovo to "preload SweetLabs Pokki software on new Lenovo PCs shipped worldwide, starting with consumer devices." That's a big deal, as Lenovo is now the top seller of PCs worldwide by some measures. SweetLabs already had a deal with Acer to preload Pokki and various Zynga games.


Today's Lenovo announcement prompted a Bloomberg story titled "Lenovo Turns to a Startup to Bring the Start Menu Back to Windows." But the devil is in the details. This isn't a straightforward replacement of Microsoft's iconic Start menu, which was left out of Windows 8 in favor of the touch-friendly Start screen. According to SweetLabs, Lenovo PCs "will include Pokkis modern Start menu, app store, and game arcade out-of-the-box, all powered by SweetLabs dynamic app recommendation and distribution platform."

SweetLabs says its app store includes desktop apps like Dropbox, Evernote, and Skype, along with "desktop versions of Web and social apps (e.g., Facebook, Gmail, Kabam games)" and "unique Pokki apps (e.g., popular Instagram app, Instagrille, and Twitter desktop app, Tweeki)."

The Pokki app store even includes some Windows Store appswhich is kind of odd given that you can get those apps from the Windows Store.

Pokki's Start menu provides some familiarity, with access to the Windows control panel, power options, and programs and files. But it will also nag you to install new stuff. "Apps are dynamically recommended in the Pokki Start menu, app store, and game arcade to users by SweetLabs real-time app recommendation system," SweetLabs' press release notes.

Lenovo products preloaded with Pokki will "span multiple device types such as the IdeaPad laptops, ThinkPad laptops, IdeaCentre desktops, and will be available in multiple regions across the world," according to SweetLabs.

Peter Bright reviewed Pokki for Ars in January, saying it "doesn't strive to mimic any particular version of the Windows Start menu, and as such it's not plagued with the same dashed hopes and shattered expectations as Classic Shell," one of the other Start menu replacements. Pokki pre-dated Windows 8 as an application marketplace and launcher and morphed into a Start menu replacement after many Windows users complained about Microsoft's new interface.

Pokki hasn't changed much since we reviewed it. The difference now is that it's being preloaded into PCs, likely giving Acer and Lenovo some extra revenue through the partnership with SweetLabs and app sales. That puts it into the category of bloatware, pre-installed software that provides functionality that users may or may not need, which might even slow the computer down.

Whether "bloatware" is good or bad is in the eyes of the beholder, though. Many consumers may appreciate the familiarity offered by Pokki when making the sometimes jarring transition from earlier versions to Windows 8. Other users may prefer the Windows 8 interface as it is, or at least want to test out a few different Start menu alternatives and see which one they like best.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Lenovo, Windows 8

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