Bill: Give us the new Office 12 interface now

Bill: Give us the new Office 12 interface now

Summary: At the Professional Developers Conference today, Bill Gates and company will dribble out more details about Vista, Office 12 and other products. Here's a sample of what Office 12 (Office 2006?

TOPICS: Microsoft

At the Professional Developers Conference today, Bill Gates and company will dribble out more details about Vista, Office 12 and other products. Here's a sample of what Office 12 (Office 2006? or 2007?) Word interface will look like.





For these interface tweaks and more, you'll have to wait another year or more. Why not offer interface improvements now for free or a nominal fee, instead of waiting until all the new functionality pieces fall into place? If the interface legitimately improves user productivity, and the underlying functionality doesn't have to change, make it available as an option--classic and new. Certainly, users and IT organizations don't want to confuse users with new ways to do things every few months, but the Office update cycle, except for patches, is from a bygone era of the software industry. Focus on continuous improvement and let the users decide if they want to apply the new interface skin or plug in other functionality.

Update: I've been watching the PDC Gates keynote and the new Office 12 interface functionality goes far deeper than navigation and discovery in the various applications. It's typical for Microsoft to spend years on a new upgrade, and then try to convince people of the value of the new features, many of which they won't ever use and require updates to Microsoft's server products and Windows. But, the new model for software today is continuous improvement, not big bang costly upgrades that promise "better results, faster" in 18 months or two years. Office is slated to ship in late 2006. Among the 400 million Office users Microsoft claims, the majority haven't even upgraded to the current version, Office 2003. Office 12 will likely be called Office 2007 if Microsoft keeps the same naming conventions. Providing more continuous improvement and creating an better ecosystem of partner plug-ins around Office would make it a better platform for users, not just Microsoft.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Give away a reason to buy the software...

    ... as soon as possible. Use it to make people more comfortable with using older versions of the software.

    New versions need have only massive changes that require long preparation to implement.

    Are you in charge of marketing Open Office? ;-)
    Anton Philidor
    • Exactly!

      Seems he doesn't understand MS is in business to SELL software. A common failing with encumbered source supporters.
  • Beating the partners to market.

    If Microsoft makes capabilities available without any products using those capabilities, what have they gained?

    The partners always get the technology far in advance, so that the new capabilities arrive with applications to use them.

    Continuous improvements might be as popular with partners as continuous patching is to those who have to install them.
    Well, worse, because the patches can be installed after testing, while the partners have to worry about being fiorst to market.

    Why should Microsoft want to run their poor partners ragged?
    Anton Philidor
  • Makes too much sense

    MS wants to hold out all of the colorful changes so it looks nice when they tell us what the price will be. 2.0 is looking really slick, and it's 100% free.
    • Ask the indentured servants how many hours donated.

      The contributors paid a price to make it happen. I will check it out though. If you plan to use it, cut the foundation a check.
  • Assuming that

    those toolbars are not so fat that they take up too much screen space when idle (hey... how about having toolbars be able to act like taskbars that hide until you hover over them???) those are some of the best looking screenshots I've seen come out of Redmond in a good long while.

    Not surprisingly they've come from the MS Office division rather than the MS Windows division, but still it looks like they're on to something. Something actually useful, not just slick looking.
    Michael Kelly
  • Why doesn't chevy give me a new fuel effecient motor for my 99?

    I mean heck, why should I need to buy a new truck to get the newer features and effeciency???
    • You're talking about a tangible manufactured item

      which must be installed by a professional mechanic.

      You only have to program and compile code once and it will duplicate itself billions of times over as needed. And the customer can self install. So the costs are much less significant.

      Keep in mind, though, that if your '99 motor were defective in even the most insignificant way, Chevy WOULD, at their own expense, replace or fix it even if it were no longer under warranty. MS pulls even that coverage from its customers, even though its costs would be insignificant compared to GM's.

      I do agree that MS is not obliged to offer upgraded software for free, but your analogy does not support your arguement.
      Michael Kelly
      • And how much do you think MS has invested?

        And after millions (billions?) of invested dollars why would they give it away.

        As to the motor, I do my own wrenching (install) so GM should just send me one out the goodness of their heart...
        • Doesn't matter how much you spend....

          ...if nobody buys it.

          After all of the time and money spent on XP, why are there still users that haven't "upgraded"?

          The same goes with Office. I know of businesses that still are on Office 97 because the two subsequent versions have given them no real reason to change. We're (a 10000+ user organization) still on Office 2000. Why? Because there's no real difference to the vast majority of our users between 2000 and 2003. For us, at least, all of the money that Microsoft has spent on 2003 is pretty much irrelevant.

          I would much rather Microsoft make smaller incremental changes "under the hood" that we can choose to use or not. As it is now, we threw out Office 2003 wholesale because the few changes that were actually of potential use to us weren't enough to balance out the effort, time and expense necessary to retrain all of our users.
    • Gee Dude!

      Ever heard of highschool motor shop? You see people actually do replace motors on old and new cars.

      Replacing a motoro for more powerful or less powerful is possible and something the auto makers have realized as a market. Before you had to head to the junk yard. Not anymore.

      So, considering that I CAN replace the engine, and with Software it's even easier as there are no parts to wear out, the question still stands, WHY NOT?
      • Please don't feed the troll (nt)

        Fred Fredrickson
      • And you do it for free?

        And all the people at school work for nothing?

        Get a life, "Dude".
    • Failed analogy

      NoAx, your analogy fails to consider the actual production and delivery cost of the engine, which is considerable, whereas the actual production/delivery cost of software is negligable. (Both have considerable R&D and QA costs, but when it comes churning out copies of an engine vs. copies of even a CD containing a software update, the comparison is no longer valid.)

      What nobody has pointed out is that this new interface probably won't simply sit on top of the existing application without significant changes to the plumbing. Interfaces in a client application rarely plug into a clean, static, formal API that would allow a current GUI to be replaced by a new GUI without changes deeper in the application. For one thing, there's no real insentive to do so. Secondly, the testing effort to retest the existing app with the new GUI would be reason alone to not provide that kind of update for free.

      No business with a goal of turning a profit would undertake such an effort for free.
  • Continuous improvement

    Hi Dan,

    I hear you and we are super commited to continuous improvement. We do this in two ways currently, based directly on what customers are experiencing with the product.

    Every week, we add templates, clipart, and assistance materials to This is done based on the ratings customers give our materials and based on what people ask of the help system in Office.

    With our service packs we update a significant number of real-world quality issues as reported by our Customer Experience Improvement program (the dialog that appears when you exit the programs prematurely). Each service pack addresses these issues and we've been doing that every 6 months or so since Office XP. By doing this we have dramatically improved the overall quality of the product (yes I am sure some of your readers still have issues and we're working on those -- click Send! when you experience them).

    Both of these mechanisms are anonymous, private, and opt-in.

    I hear your feedback on major improvements to the products being made available this way. Our customers, in general, have told us that significant changes to teh features/UI in the core products make them harder to manage. So we add these improvements at major releases. Also, releasing these optionally also makes for an IT management challenge.

    I'm glad you're anxious to get your hands on teh new experience. We're excited to bring it to you and your readers. As BillG mentioned this morning, the beta will be this year and we will release in 2006.

    --Steven Sinofsky
    • Continuous improvement

      thx for the quick response to my posting. I still contend that taking two or more years to improve user interfaces isn't fully serving users. It's partly a business model, catering to the largest enterprises who don't like lots of updates and a part of the MS development culture. How about opening up the architecture more so developers can bring innovations sooner than later, creating a directory of these components, certifying them and creating a marketplace like salesforce is trying to do with appexchange?
      • Continuous improvement

        Spoken like a person who doesn't understand the level of effort involved here. This ain't no skin like Windows Media Player. I'm sure that there is a lot of work being done to also ensure backward compatibility. Disclaimer: I no longer work at Microsoft, nor do I have any knowledge of Office 12, but I do know the effort that was involved in previous versions to change the user interface.
        • effort

          Microsoft puts huge effort, money and resources into new versions of its products...lots of research and testing and ensuring compatibility. But does it makes sense to wait a few or several years to deliver new functionality...another year or 18 months to make Office more usable? Microsoft needs to figure out how to deliver more coninuous improvement. The fact that it's hard for MS to do doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile...maybe the large enterprises don't want it...many are still on older versions and use a fraction of the capabilities...but many users like myself would rather see faster improvements...but MS has to tie everything into its servers, new Windows etc....There must be a better way...
          • Ah, you are talking about software as a service.

            Something many have tried and not done well in.
        • Yes, it's very possible

          What Dan is suggesting is already done by Mozilla.
          Download Firefox, then peruse the extensions. You can
          add all sorts of extras - themes, ad blockers, flash
          blockers, development tools, RSS readers, etc. whenever
          you want.

          Microsoft want to bind you as tightly as they can to the
          Windows platform so that you are not only dependent on
          Office, but to the Windows desktop and server products as

          That's their choice, it's a strategy that has made them very,
          very rich. But it's also a consumers' choice to critically
          analyse whether new versions really do deliver useful
          features or bloat.
          Fred Fredrickson