On Wednesday, Microsoft revealed new looks for the Windows 10 and Xbox start screens: one deliberately, and one inadvertently.
A “canary” daily build of Windows 10 leaked into the wild on Wednesday, revealing a new, spartan Windows 10 Start menu. It does away with the tiled look and feel of the traditional Start menu, and replaces it with a sea of icons that look more like the “Share” option that accompanies a file.
Images of the new Start menu were captured by various Twitter users. (Unfortunately, PCWorld’s Insider machine was offline at the time. Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar, the face of Microsoft’s Insider program, didn’t have an explanation. The company later confirmed, however, that an “internal preview build was unintentionally released to a broader audience than expected.” Microsoft also said that Insiders will need to use the rollback function to return to an earlier version of Windows 10 by going to Settings > Start > Update & Security > Recovery> Go back to the previous version of Windows 10.)
Separately, however, Microsoft did confirm that changes are coming to the Xbox home screen. In place of the “twists” at the top of the screen, where the interface pivots among Mixer, Game Pass, the Xbox Community, and the Store, Microsoft has added dedicated buttons that users will have to navigate to and click.
“We’ve heard your feedback and have continued to iterate on Home to get you into your gaming experiences faster and keeping more of your content front and center,” Bradley Rossetti, the Xbox Insider team lead, wrote. “With today’s update, we’re experimenting with a streamlined user interface.” The new experimental Home rolls out this week to select Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead ring, Rossetti wrote, and may drop to other users in the future.
Perhaps aware that the change might not be popular, Rossetti wrote that the new features may “change and even come and go” in response to user feedback. Microsoft did not give a timetable for when it may be rolled out to the Xbox user base at large.
Microsoft also said that a more bittersweet change is coming to the Xbox this fall: You won’t be able to talk to Cortana directly. Cortana (which was originally designed to be accessible via the now-discontinued Kinect camera, then later via headset) will be turned off. Instead, you’ll be able to command your Xbox via the Xbox Skill for Cortana, for Windows (including the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker), iOS, and Android. Alexa devices will still be able to control the Xbox, too. Microsoft will roll out the Cortana changes to its Insider rings first, specifically the Alpha Skip Ahead ring, this week.
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As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.