Maybe it was, problem is, the replacement is worse! Short exercise: Search for a file in "start" and drag it into Word. "Press winkey and start typing!" as they say.. This easy task in W7 and Vista becomes quite a rocker in Win8 because the search results are in a entirely different plane now. If you say there is some obscure keyboard shortcut for that, you lose.
An application launcher that occupies the whole darn screen on a 27 incher is inferior to the start menu. End. The approach is just WRONG. You know who pioneered that design on the desktop? An NES EMULATOR!
Look at Nemulator 2.0from 2009 (that's before Windows Phone 7). It has live tiles! You click on them them and they expand to full screen. All the other "applications" apparently still run when that happens. The design, look and feel of the UI is very metrofy, too. For example: There is no search box or any indication that the GUI is searchable, yet it is! (notice the popping letters in the video) I wonder whether the designer filed patents?
Screenshot: (you should see the video though to see the live-tile aspect)
Well, at least the Metro "apps" aren't too far away from their spiritual forefathers. Who would have thought they would add this GUI into Windows "Pro" and make it mandatory?