The Modern UI is the start menu - except more flexible.
I've been using a non-touch laptop for 3 weeks now with Windows 8, and I've been focusing on using the Modern UI and Modern apps instead of the desktop apps. It took me awhile, but once I got it - there is a lot of superiority to this approach *even if you're not going to use a touch-screen*. Now, Logitech has a "magicpad" type touch-pad that is evidently getting GREAT reviews on giving the touch-screen experience to desktop devices, as well. Touch is *frequently* a superior method of interface depending on the task you're doing. A system that supports both touch and mouse/pointer is almost certainly in the future.
My example about putting icons on the desktop was simply that it *IS* Windows 7. Everything works the same - you're just looking at it from a different perspective. Really, it is much ado over nothing - this rage over the start menu being gone.
But... two years down the road, you'll probably know I was right all along.
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