Microsoft has pointed to the decline in the number of Windows 7 users accessing the Start menu as a reason to radically overhaul the feature in Windows 8.
Core experience evolved team program manager Chaitanya Sareen said in a blog post that the number of users who even opened the Start menu to access programs fell 11 percent between Vista and Windows 7.
The change in use was even more dramatic for other applications that would traditionally have been accessed via the Start menu.
Use of Start to access "All Programs" fell 42 percent between versions. Access to the "Documents" folder through the Start menu fell 56 percent; the "Pictures" folder by 61 percent.
"It is striking to see how dramatically different the use of the Start menu is in Windows Vista vs. Windows 7," Sareen said.
He noted that while the Start menu - first introduced in Windows 95 - had been steadily improved, it was created for "a very different time" in computing and still had "core usability challenges" even in Windows 7.
"An important part of design is sometimes taking a step back to fundamentally reimagine something from the ground up in order to bring more than incremental improvements to a product," he said.
"This is especially true for something like Start that was born in a very different time when we didn't use our PCs the way we do today."
Sareen said the Windows 7 taskbar had, in many ways, replaced functions previously served by Start.
"You can even say the taskbar reveals many of the weaknesses of the Start menu and that the menu is no longer as valuable as it once was long ago," he said.
Microsoft planned to replace Start in Windows 8 with a tile-based screen similar to the Windows Phone 7 operating system, dubbed Metro.
Sareen emphasized the trend towards touch and said debate over the introduction of touch was "eerily" similar to that which occurred when the mouse was first launched.
"The one place touch has not yet become mainstream [but] is on the most capable of all the devices you use. Just like the introduction of the mouse, innovations like this do not happen without new OS support, new apps, and new hardware," he said.
"We believe that, as with the mouse, we will see touch augmenting, but not replacing, most every aspect of the PC experience over time. Achieving this starts with the Windows 8 developer preview."