Microsoft Windows 8
Microsoft Windows 8 will be released in October 2012. REUTERS

For the past two decades, Microsoft Windows users have relied on the familar start button to find all their programs and documents. When Windows 8 launches, maybe by the end of 2012, Microsoft will kill the start button. Instead, a so-called hot corner will take its place, and all it requires is a mouse over the bottom left of the screen to launch the new full-screen Metro UI style start screen (or use a finger, of course). It could take some getting used to for experienced Windows users, and possibly even more so for first-timers.

An all-new Windows 8 Consumer Preview will debut in just two weeks, tech blog ExtremeTech reported, and the start button may show up there. However, the report included a hint from an inside person who said that would be unlikely. On the other hand, the Windows key on Microsoft keyboards will still perform the start menu launch as always. Windows 8 is Microsoft's new all-purpose operating system to be used on tablets, smartphones and desktops. It will have support for touchscreens (of course) and also be compatible with ARM microprocessors in addition to chips already in use by Intel and AMD. Designwise, Windows 8 will be taking a few cues from the Metro UI found on current Windows Phone 7 models. It's a more visual layout with graphic 'tiles' that launch the apps.

Furthermore, Windows 8 is rumored to have native compatibility for USB 3.0, a new and faster way to transfer data. Another new feature is called Windows To Go, and it allows Windows to run from a USB-connected drive. It's mostly meant for businesses. Windows 8 will also bring new features to users who run multiple monitors. Those monitors can all run different background images and individualized taskbars.

Tell us in the comments if you'll miss the start menu or if you think it's no big deal.