Lenovo Works Around the Windows 8 Start Screen with Pokki Partnership

The world's leading PC maker is pre-loading a Start menu onto Windows 8 computers.

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For everyone who’s griped about the lack of a pop-up Start menu in Windows 8, Lenovo is planning to offer a form of relief.

The PC maker is partnering with Pokki to offer a desktop start menu in its future products. Pokki says its agreement with Lenovo covers all devices worldwide, starting with IdeaPad laptops and IdeaCentre desktops, then expanding to ThinkPad business laptops. Pokki will hit Lenovo’s English-language devices first.

I wrote about Pokki in October of last year, when the company had just launched a major update for its standalone Start menu software. It’s a capable Start menu replacement, adding quick links to folders, programs and settings that aren’t easily available through the Windows 8 desktop.

Pokki also offers its own app store, largely consisting of web apps and games that open in self-contained windows. According to TechCrunch, Lenovo and Pokki will also generate revenue through these apps, particularly the new game arcade that includes titles like Cut the Rope and Fieldrunners. Personally, I could do without these gussied-up web apps, since it’s already possible to get similar functionality through Google Chrome’s Web Store, but some folks may find use for them as standalone apps.

The one thing that worries me, though, is whether a pre-loaded version of Pokki will simply come off as bloatware to most users. It’s worth noting that Pokki isn’t replacing the Windows Start screen outright; Microsoft’s app launcher will still be accessible in Windows 8 by moving your cursor to the bottom-right corner of the screen, and in Windows 8.1, Pokki’s menu button will reside immediately to the right of Microsoft’s own Start button. In other words, it’s two different app launchers competing for your attention.

Still, the fact that Lenovo–now the world’s largest PC maker–is willing to tack on an entire Start menu alongside its usual array of bloatware says something about the state of Windows 8: For all that Microsoft is trying to do to make the Metro interface more accommodating, there’s still a huge amount of demand to open apps the old-fashioned way.