There have been a number of reports recently that the Start Orb, or what some still think of as the Start button, has been removed from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (Beta). And while the first few leaked shots I saw were inconclusive--there's a well-known registry hack that achieves this same effect, for example--this change is in fact true based on what my internal sources are telling me: Microsoft is removing the Start Orb from Windows 8.

Here's how it looks (mockup).

no-start-orb-sm

This change doesn't impact the functionality of the missing Start Orb: You can tap the Start key on your keyboard (or CTRL + ESC) to mimic the behavior of the Orb, or mouse over the bottom left corner of the taskbar to bring up the Charms and screen overlay as before.