Microsoft Office 2010: The Movie
January 9, 2010 9:31 AM   Subscribe

2 Minute Ad for MS office after the travesty of the windows 7 launch party ads, MS gets it right. SLYT
posted by marienbad (70 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I laughed a few times and then got depressed about my life.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 AM on January 9, 2010

Same here.

Amazingly, they didn't use the Mission Impossible theme.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2010

It's good. But it's a bit confusing. So Microsoft is like CTU, and our Office Hero is Jack Bauer? And he's torturing the hot Mac chick who manages to completely befuddle him by invoking WingDings? Best not to overthink it.
posted by Nelson at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Pepsi Blue, flagged as breaking the guidelines. KILL IT! KILL IT!

I'm still bitter enough about the whole OpenXML scam that I'm sorta pissed off anybody wants to offer MS free advertising space
posted by koeselitz at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2010

Still not sure if this is a real commercial, a real trailer, or a fake commercial.

It kinda fails as a commercial, as all it does is throw gotcha's at internet-savvy people.
posted by Taft at 9:54 AM on January 9, 2010

At first, I thought this was going to be about hunting down and killing Comic Sans, a rogue agent that dresses like a clown. Alas, I am disappointed.
posted by chillmost at 9:59 AM on January 9, 2010 [10 favorites]

Clippy has a gravesite? Oh yeah. I'm going on a road trip to dance on a grave.
posted by chambers at 9:59 AM on January 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

posted by Night_owl at 10:01 AM on January 9, 2010

Who cares if they're internet gotchas, it's really funny!
posted by Flashman at 10:04 AM on January 9, 2010

It kinda fails as a commercial

If they want to make sure that people who might buy Office 2010 know that there is an Office 2010, and they want to inject a little humor and excitement into the message, it looks like it's working. Would you expect them to list features?

I just can't get over that the year is 2010. I'm going to go lie down and watch an old movie.
posted by pracowity at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2010

Yeah, I liked this. I admit. Also I don't really care if it advertises for Microsoft because the target audience of this ad (people essentially like me) are going to laugh, then keep using OpenOffice anyway.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

The Windows 7 launch party ads were so awful because they knew we would talk about how awful they were and therefore would talk about Windows 7.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This still doesn't help me with the weird cross-domain certificate errors that MS Outlook 2010 Beta is throwing. Jerkfaces.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clippy has a gravesite? Oh yeah. I'm going on a road trip to dance on a grave.

I'll be doing the same, but wearing magnets under my soles to make his time underground as insufferable as every time I opened up a document.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 10:21 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

It looks like you're trying to make a commercial. Would you like help?
posted by danb at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2010 [21 favorites]

Am I the only one who thinks that MS-Office peaked with version '97 and has gone downhill since then? I've been using '07 for two years now and I still can't find anything in that nightmare of a GUI interface.
posted by octothorpe at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

The audio production on this is absolutely terrible. It sounds like a fan video or something made on spec, not a professional commercial. Even worse, the way that the default fonts are utilized and poorly anti-aliased make them look like the worst of what people remember from Microsoft Word, as if Apple in the 90s had used Chicago as their font in advertising. The ad may be witty, but -- if it's a real Microsoft ad -- it makes Office look cheap and amateurish, not a tool for professionals.

On the other hand, I'm one of those weird folks who actually really, really liked the second Microsoft Seinfeld ad. The first one seemed like a string of non-sequiturs, but the second one was like some sort of dadaist, Theatre of the Absurd representation of the problems in Windows, written as though Edward Albee got really fed up with Vista and banged this out one afternoon. The ad explores:

* Issues with Microsoft's monopoly and imposition in the home. Seinfeld and Gates are derided throughout the ad for being houseguests. Everyone's trying to be nice to them, but nobody really wants them in the house, nor do they seem sure why they're there.

* Microsoft's uncomfortable relationship with social class. The protagonists, Seinfeld and Bill Gates, seem to have trouble fitting in with their target market, the "normal" family who try to impress them with things like fancy mustard. The family looks up to them like they're "upper class," when they're trying to act like normal people but are really members of the super-rich, and yet they're stuck with each other as above. They're ultimately condescending to the family's quirks.

* An acknowledgement that Microsoft was out of touch with its customers. This is actually made explicit in the ad.

* Microsoft can just plain dick over their customers and other vendors/competitors. Bill Gates and Seinfeld just take the pizza dude's food and don't pay him. Nice.

* Microsoft has been accused of security issues. Household items go stolen, and Microsoft is the first to be blamed.

* Microsoft's network-related innovations have been petty. "A frog with an e-mail, a goldfish with a blog."

In short, the ad says that the relationship between Microsoft and everyone else is extremely antagonistic. And that it's also funny and weird.

I kind of like that. It's actually a pretty honest, entertaining ad.
posted by eschatfische at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2010 [15 favorites]

Well. That was surprisingly funny. No Seinfeld trying on shoes, though.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2010

The day I killed Clippy I felt nothing, neither sorrow nor joy. Clippy had no longer been part of the world for ages before that day. Those early days of promise when Clippy, Wizard and Dog had laughed in the face of F1 had only led to the inevitable disappointments, failures and subsequent betrayals.

Sure, Dog still popped up every now and then, usually when you were trying to find something, but you could tell his heart was no longer in it. If you whispered the right words, "Microsoft Bob", you could sometimes hear Dog softly whimper as the light died in his broken eyes.

Clippy had been the leader, the public face of the gang. That's why he had to go, he was not just a failure, he was a Jonah. In the end, it was mercy to take him out.

I hear there's a new shipment coming into town before long. Good, bad, indifferent - I do not know yet. So I sit here playing Ribbon Hero to keep my skills intact, just in case Clippy had a brother.
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clippy faked his own death and is happily living incognito as a urethra rod.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unsurprisingly unfunny.
posted by basicchannel at 10:35 AM on January 9, 2010

>: Clippy faked his own death and is happily living incognito as a urethra rod.

posted by dunkadunc at 10:38 AM on January 9, 2010

Well, yeah. It's an expensive movie trailer parody, done with wit and panache. That's good. Thanks.

I have no idea how that's supposed to help the Office brand or make me want to have anything to do with Office 2010 - which looks to me more like mosquito anti-coagulant injected into the corporate body than any productivity tool.
posted by Devonian at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2010

I sleep in a big bed with my wife use OpenOffice on a Mac.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

the "Winner of the Redmond Local film Festival" is probably the best piece of cultural critique i've seen all year..
posted by 3mendo at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2010

Wow, I've been pronouncing Arial wrong all this time.
posted by ecurtz at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2010

How else could it be pronounced?
posted by Night_owl at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2010

Like Ariel, from The Tempest.
posted by ecurtz at 11:14 AM on January 9, 2010

Once again, Microsoft tries to be sexy, hip, and maybe even funny, and fails miserably. That was a lot of work for nothing. Windows 7 is great though!
posted by hellslinger at 11:27 AM on January 9, 2010

I just can't get over that the year is 2010. I'm going to go lie down and watch an old movie.

How about 2010?
posted by A dead Quaker at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2010

Upon second listen, yeah, she says "arial" weirdly, but I'm just going to assume it's a product of her accent.
posted by Night_owl at 11:29 AM on January 9, 2010

ecurtz: “Like Ariel, from The Tempest.”

Dude - this is Microsoft. I have a feeling it's a little closer to 'Like Ariel, from The Little Mermaid.'
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

She's supposed to be a furriner -- Polish: "gdzies miedzy Arial i Wingdings" if I'm hearing it correctly -- and she pronounces it ahr-ee-el instead of air-ee-el.
posted by pracowity at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Also, he demands to know from her "Where is the czcionka?!)"
posted by pracowity at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2010

posted by device55 at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2010

posted by june made him a gemini at 3:29 PM on January 9, 2010

posted by Burhanistan at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

This will always be my favorite Microsoft ad.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:37 PM on January 9, 2010

I've been using '07 for two years now and I still can't find anything in that nightmare of a GUI interface.

It's actually pretty good, once you configure the Redundancy Settings settings properly.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:40 PM on January 9, 2010

Eh, they vetted that "ribbon" interface fairly extensively with a cross-section of test users. It's really quite easy to find stuff. *

* Not defending MS products, but sheesh, it's not difficult.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:42 PM on January 9, 2010

Actually, the Office 2007 GUI is one of the best things to happen to the package, but that could be just me. If nothing else, menus now are a lot more logically constructed than before.

Ad, on the other hand, reminds me of a pimped up student production. Although the idea that Clippy is buried in a grave is a nice reminder of the thing's fortunate demise.
posted by wet-raspberry at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2010

Yeah, I gotta say - I'm not a Windows user, but W7 does look a lot nicer and has been getting better reviews from people I know than Vista ever did. Maybe it's because Vista was so painful that dressing up Windows 98 with a better GUI would be an improvement.

As I think about it, I rather liked Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:03 PM on January 9, 2010

Dr Dracator: “It's actually pretty good, once you configure the Redundancy Settings settings properly.”

Yeah, to join the chorus, I actually feel as though the Office 2007 ribbon is the best thing Microsoft has implemented in a good 20 years. A clear, direct, intuitive replacement to the silly menus they have that have gotten more and more and more complex—I really think that most of the static they've gotten over that ribbon has to do with people just having the old menus memorized, and being used to knowing where to 'hunt' for things. The thing is that you have to hunt so much less now that those skills are suddenly obsolete; that's a little discomforting to some, I think, but it's still an improvement.

Not to mention the very best thing about the ribbon in my view: it's probably the first GUI I've ever seen that presents a clear, sensible hotkey heirarchy on-screen in an immediate, visually-intuitive (yet inobtrusive) way. Really, that's the first time I've ever seen that, and back when I was actually using Office 07 it made the stuff almost enjoyable. Suddenly the learning curve of memorizing keystroke combinations disappears, since they're right there in front of you the minute you start to key them in—fucking awesome. Press Alt, and all the keys you can press to get to the next sublevel appear in tiny boxes over their respective areas; press the key for the next sublevel, and you get the next range of key-options. Give whoever thought of that a raise.

Eh, it's Microsoft, though. They probably already fired that person.
posted by koeselitz at 5:20 PM on January 9, 2010

I spent my last 40 hours at work struggling with a document created in Excel with French and German Characters, and trying to get them into a database for display on the web via any hack possible. Microsoft's in-ability to follow standards shared around the world, in effect, made that document useless for use by other super common, open source protocols ( php, mysql).

It was quite a nightmare, and I'm sure there are many other developers out there who've struggled with the same thing when dealing with internationalization.

Fortunately, I convinced my boss that we all *need* to be using OpenOffice. And, because our client ( in the process of internationalizing their product line ) has encountered so many egregious examples of wasted time and fail, due to M$ products, my boss has told our client that they need to use OpenOffice as well, or we simply won't work for them.

I think this is how FROSS spreads, one wasted week of development at a time. People slowly realize that FROSS programs are, in some cases, qualitatively better. Adhering to standards in an open way is cheaper in the long run for everyone involved.
posted by localhuman at 5:33 PM on January 9, 2010

Yep, OpenOffice is pretty rockin', so long as you download all the language packs. It loads faster than Word, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:39 PM on January 9, 2010

where's the part where MS gets it right?
posted by Señor Pantalones at 7:53 PM on January 9, 2010

posted by JoJoPotato at 9:14 PM on January 9, 2010

I think I'd rather look at Plushie Schwartz.
posted by flabdablet at 2:43 AM on January 10, 2010

You forgot to mention the best thing about the Ribbon - they chose NOT to include it in Mac Office. Which was a decision almost as stupid as dumping VBS.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:28 AM on January 10, 2010

Would you expect them to list features?

Yes. As someone potentially looking for a product, that's what I think ads are for: information about the product. Building brand image, creating excitement, "the art of advertising", these are all for the people making the ad.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:37 AM on January 10, 2010

Unfortunately, I had to give up on OpenOffice at work since it can't save in the new MS-Office xml file formats and that feature doesn't even seem to be on OO's roadmap (at least the last time I looked).

And sorry, I still don't like the Ribbon, it takes up way too much screen real estate and I still end up hunting through every single menu before I find what I need to do.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on January 10, 2010

It's actually pretty good, once you configure the Redundancy Settings settings properly.

Everytime a justification like this is made, a user turns to Mac.
posted by mazola at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2010

And continues to use Office.
posted by mazola at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2010

It's actually pretty good, once you configure the Redundancy Settings settings properly.

For people who Aren't Getting It:

This was a joke comment. Someone mentioned a GUI interface, or graphical user interface interface, so the relevant commenter said that it works okay if you set the Redundancy Settings settings correctly.

Which is true, but to do that you'll need to enter your personal PIN number as a security measure.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

>: You forgot to mention the best thing about the Ribbon - they chose NOT to include it in Mac Office.

Which, if you think about it, would not have fit with the Mac UI at all.

As far as I'm concerned, OpenOffice is still no good for anything but basic text composition. Every time I export to an Office format, the formatting gets messed up in some way. When I exported a presentation to PowerPoint, it changed all my fonts to white on white, and I had to change every text element individually for some reason. That's why I don't dare touch OpenOffice anymore- because when it really, really matters, it might well not work.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2010

I had to give up on OpenOffice at work since it can't save in the new MS-Office xml file formats and that feature doesn't even seem to be on OO's roadmap

Interested in this. Given that the new Office XML formats are incompatible with everything pre Office 2007, why would you actually want to save anything in any of those formats? What can you do with, for example, a .docx that you can't do with a .doc or a .odt?
posted by flabdablet at 4:58 PM on January 10, 2010

When I exported a presentation to PowerPoint, it changed all my fonts to white on white

Impress is, in my opinion,'s weakest component. PowerPoint 2007 is much, much better, if you like that sort of thing (I don't).

However, on the few occasions when I've needed to build a presentation and export it for somebody else to use, I've found that Impress's PDF and Flash exporters both do a pretty decent job.
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2010

dunkadunc: “As far as I'm concerned, OpenOffice is still no good for anything but basic text composition. Every time I export to an Office format, the formatting gets messed up in some way. When I exported a presentation to PowerPoint, it changed all my fonts to white on white, and I had to change every text element individually for some reason. That's why I don't dare touch OpenOffice anymore- because when it really, really matters, it might well not work.”

I've heard this argument before, but it makes no sense to me. I think everyone agrees that, within MS Office, the exact same problem exists: various versions, various operating systems, sometimes even the same version and operating system on different machines produce different results. The conclusions should be that when it really, really matters, saving something as a .doc hardly ever works — shouldn't it?

In fact, I am completely baffled by the fact that anybody in business anywhere doing any job for anything would ever use that format - what's it for? The formatting's just going to get screwed up in the end, anyway. Look, businesspeople: I've been in your shoes. The solution is very, very simple:

(1) If you want to save text documents with formatting, fonts, justification, etc. then save your documents as richtext (.rtf) files. They're editable, and they'll open pretty much identically in Word, OpenOffice, AbiWord, WordPerfect, Emacs, et cetera. You do not need any other format if you're making a document to be edited by many people.

(2) If you want to save text documents with formatting, fonts, justification, and exactly the same kerning and images and placement and all sorts of awesome coolness and kerning and pretty line spacing, and have it look exactly as it does in front of you when it ends up in front of somebody else, export it to a PDF. There's a reason this format exists: so that you know that a document is stable and ends up looking the same in front of everybody else as it does in front of you.

(3) Never, never, never, NEVER save a document in a "OpenXML" (.docx, .xlsx, etcx) format. It's impolite, it's pointless (as it adds nothing you're actually using to currently-available formats) it's using a crap format that should never be allowed to catch on, and it is bad for business. Take it from me - I was the IT guy for years. 70% of people don't know how to open those goddamned things, and if you're so special that you do have Office 2007, you owe it to the rest of people to be nice and not use that format. Besides, there's no feature of OpenXML that 99% of people will actually use that doesn't already exist in rtf.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 AM on January 11, 2010

octothorpe: “Unfortunately, I had to give up on OpenOffice at work since it can't save in the new MS-Office xml file formats and that feature doesn't even seem to be on OO's roadmap (at least the last time I looked).”

They aren't on Microsoft's roadmap, either. Microsoft lost a big patent case regarding those stupid, stupid docx and xlsx formats, so now you can't open those types of files in Office 2010. I'm dead serious - check it out. The court order that forced MS to pull Office 2010 from the shelves and remove OpenXML went into effect today, Monday, January 11.

.docx and .xlsx are dead formats. Now, not only can no one with Office from prior to 2007 open those files - even people with Office from after 2007 can't open them! It's kind of silly to think that those kinds of formats will last now.
posted by koeselitz at 1:46 AM on January 11, 2010

The only thing that .doc does better than .rtf is embed graphics. Word processing documents with photos in them get huge when you save them as RTF.

Dunkadunc's point pertained to presentations rather than word processor documents. As far as I know, the only format that MS Office users can save presentations in are .ppt and .pptx; and while there are certainly compatibility issues between Powerpoint versions, dunkadunc is quite correct to observe that they pale into insignificance next to the mess that results from opening an Impress export in Powerpoint. Impress is also a pain in the arse to use, compared to Powerpoint; numbered lists don't work properly, formatting isn't as smooth, embedded movie support isn't as good... none of these things are dealbreakers individually, but collectively, and especially combined with the Powerpoint compatibility issues, they're enough to put many, many people off giving Impress more than a cursory glance.

In case you didn’t know already, i4i Technologies sued MSFT for infringing upon a 1998 patent that covers XML manipulating technology in a word processor.

No, I didn't know that. Koeselitz, do you know if that patent has any bearing on the Open Document formats, which are also XML-based?
posted by flabdablet at 2:47 AM on January 11, 2010

Ah. Apparently not.
posted by flabdablet at 2:52 AM on January 11, 2010

Also, as much as being forced to kill off OOXML altogether would indeed make life interesting for vast numbers of office workers, the article you linked does say that
Microsoft assured customers that applying the patch would not affect Office Word content controls, the Office Open XML (OOXML) formats that Word 2007 supports or the Custom XML markup data stored within older Word formats from the Word 97-Word 2003 eras.
It looks like they're being forced to turn off features, not can the whole format.
posted by flabdablet at 2:56 AM on January 11, 2010

Yes, but that's also soaked in a fair amount of spin. The spin MS is trying to put on this is that it's just "limited features" that have to be turned off - but it's clear from most of the stories about this one can find that one of those "limited features" happens to be the ability to open the format natively. That's a little more than a "feature" if you ask me - anybody opening a docx now will be forced, through the new patch, to convert via the same method that everybody with pre-2007 Office has had to, though I'm sure MS has made that conversion utility a lot prettier now. That means it's really as though everybody's working with .docs anyway - so this makes it hard to see the point of the format. Of course Microsoft is assuring workplaces that their documents will work, and they will; but there's really no point in the face of these facts in using the Open XML format, since you'll effectively be saving as .doc anyhow.

I'm sure there will be a workaround, and frankly I haven't seen today's patch so I have no idea what will be in it - maybe they'll manage to save OOXML. But the trouble is really that, officially (this is according to i4i lawyers) the court order
... prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML.
The hard part is figuring out what "Custom XML" is, and how integral MS made it in their Office products. The indicators point to "very," considering that they've had to pull everything from shelves, and they're spending a lot of money appealing the decision again. Still, it's hard to know.

I'm getting this overview, by the way, from these two better-than-most articles; they give a pretty good overview of what's going on. But if you really want to understand the technical details of OOXML, I think the best place to turn is in fact the big source for one of those articles, a good blog entitled "OOXML is defective by design."

I think anybody paying attention here should think it a bit odd that the Office Open XML standard, which MS trumpeted as a big, fancy open-source standard for the future that ECMA and everybody could adhere to, turns out apparently to have all kinds of strange stuff under the surface like Custom XML. We were all watching while MS took down Netscape; they did that through embrace, extend, extinguish as well. This is sort of a brasher version of that, I think: MS somehow managed to convince the world to accept a format they were already working on extending so that they could extinguish the competition, even as the competition worked hard on software that used MS's own standard. This is underhanded stuff, but more importantly it's a shit way to create a document specification; I wouldn't be surprised if OOXML has even more strange, underhanded skeletons in its closet just waiting to be found later on.

Anyhow, all this justifies, I think, a militant reaction to the format: don't use it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 AM on January 11, 2010

I actually can't recommend that "OOXML is defective by design" blog enough; the title seems a bit, well, skewed in one direction, but the really fantastic thing about it is that it's just a guy going through, step by step, and actually working with documents in Word and checking them against the ECMA 376 standard. They have a very, very good technical description up right now of what the new updates of Word actually change; thus far, it sounds like MS tried to remove all obvious XML from the product. I'm reading through it right now, and it's very informative.
posted by koeselitz at 3:31 AM on January 11, 2010

Jesus, it's scary reading about this stuff in detail.

This is why some of us hate Microsoft so much: because, for the sake of monopolizing profit, they destroy software formats and put software development back decades simply in order to hamstring the competition. They've invented a format nobody else can open, drafted a specification complex enough nobody wanted to try, and then, in a subtle way, turned that "open format" into a purely proprietary format, even though it's currently an ECMA standard!

No wonder Open Office hasn't touched this shit.
posted by koeselitz at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2010

Oh, wow. I just read the patent in question. Let me summarize it for you:

Prior art for formatted documents consists of embedding formatting codes inline with the document text. This means that you need some method for reliably distinguishing formatting codes from text, and it means that if you change the formatting codes without changing the text or vice versa, you have to store a whole new document. Our patent covers keeping a block of formatting codes completely separate from the text, and having each formatting code contain a pointer into the text that identifies the text it applies to. This is a Good Thing because you can create a bunch of differently formatted documents based on the same text without needing to store multiple copies of the text.

In other words: what they've patented is kind of like what CSS would be if every CSS rule applied to raw text characters M through N instead of applying to named elements within a structured text format.

I am astounded by the brilliant stupidity of this idea. They claim, mostly with handwaving, that their system would allow you to edit the content completely independent of its formatting (clearly bullshit, as all the pointers past the first edit point would be broken, which is of course why no sensible document format works this way) and that this is a major step worth patenting.

As is usual for software patents, the whole thing is couched in vague legalese instead of meaningful computer science terms (the word "pointer" never appears, for example; they prefer to talk about character positions) and I can easily imagine a clever lawyer being able to bamboozle a not-so-compsci-literate judge into believing that it is somehow applicable to OOXML, which does indeed feature a certain degree of separation between style and content.

But it's all bullshit. The "content" portion of an OOXML document is itself an XML subdocument, which is clearly full of the very embedded format codes that the patent says are inferior prior art. If this patent applies to OOXML, it also applies to CSS used to specify rendering for HTML. And since the first CSS spec appeared in 1994, and this patent is dated 1998, that doesn't really work, now, does it?

Microsoft must have let Steve Ballmer take the stand to get this screwed up this badly.
posted by flabdablet at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ye gods. That's pretty much claiming they have a patent on XML itself.

It's pretty obvious, reading this in combination with that "defective by design" link I posted earlier, that no one in that courtroom had any idea what Custom XML is at all. It seems like a judge heard the term "Custom XML" and thought "oh, it's XML that you can customize." But all XML is custom in that sense. Heh.

It's a ridiculous and frivolous patent claim, but it's ironically being foisted on the most ridiculous and frivolous patent claimant in US history. The Feds spent all that time investigating MS over anti-trust allegations, but what they really should have been doing is laying down a real standard when it comes to software patents - that is, software patents should be illegal, or at least very, very difficult to obtain. MS has obtained so many ridiculous and frivolous patents over the last few years that it's nuts; so it's particularly odd to see them fall victim to a claimant who's bringing the same frivolous charges.

Could this convince MS not to make frivolous patent claims? I doubt it. It'd be nice, though.
posted by koeselitz at 12:01 PM on January 11, 2010

But it's not about the ridiculous and frivolous patents. SOMEBODY KILLED CLIPPY! onoz wtf bbq etc
posted by flabdablet at 4:19 PM on January 11, 2010

me: "You forgot to mention the best thing about the Ribbon - they chose NOT to include it in Mac Office."

dunkadunc: "Which, if you think about it, would not have fit with the Mac UI at all."

So you're saying the floating separate window Toolbox is a more Mac-like thing than than having all the controls in a single (somewhat context-aware) toolbar that is fixed in the main window? The floating Toolbox is the biggest pile of fail in the whole program suite. Yeah, let's place all of the important controls into a single panel and have it collapse in on itself every time it loses focus, so that you will forever have to click all over it hunting for the option you need right now. Oh and let's also make sure that it is treated as a program window by the OS, so that it won't work with Spaces (until we add in some bug fixes, and even then it still causes problems). Even better, we can make sure that because it's a separate window it won't follow the main document so working with multiple screens is essentially pointless. Oh yeah, that's great. Most of the panels available in the Toolbox are worse than useless, in Word especially the main one is all you need for most work, and they've ensured that the vast majority of the button options there can't be duplicated in the toolbars they do allow you to dock in the main document window.

Mac mentality is all about usability and simplicity in design. The execrable mess that is the current Mac Office UI is so far behind this philosophy that it is hard to believe the MS Mac BU actually use OSX on a day-to-day basis, or that Word actually started as a Mac program in the first place. The Ribbon was actually very well tested prior to release. It's strange at first for long-time Office users but oddly simple to use after a short period of adjustment. Implementing this design into Mac Office would be a very smart thing. Removing all of the floating toolbars (especially the completely insane floating formula bar in Excel) would go a long way towards making the Office suite a lot more Mac-friendly, if not Mac-like.

I'm going to digress a moment here, on that topic. The fascination with "Mac-like" UI features gets me. There seems to be a large number of Mac users who immediately decry anything not personally designed by Steve Jobs as "not Mac-like", as if the Apple design standards are the only way one can ever make a usable program. I understand that Apple does put a lot of time into this, but come on, most of this has nothing to do with how well the software actually works and often devolves into some pedant arguing that the gray gradient in the Firefox toolbar is two pixels off from what Safari uses, and oh my god how can you STOMACH such bad design? The reality is this: Design wankery aside, if the program works, and works well, an interface that doesn't exactly match the OS is a detraction but isn't something that the vast majority of users are even going to notice, much less care about. I use a large number of programs every day that don't match the standard Apple "look and feel", (including for example Adobe software, my default web browser and email software, my reference manager, my preferred FTP program...) but the end result is largely the same: The programs work, and what's more all look and work the same on any platform (some keyboard shortcuts, system-specific default skins and menu options aside). Microsoft Office is the only glaring exception to this. The Mac and Windows versions are so different that I have a hard time understanding why they keep using the same names for them. The interface is riddled with poor choices from both a design and a usability standpoint. Auto-collapsing and auto-resizing windows, floating toolbar hell, UI interoperability bugs, autosave failures, random crashes, cross-platform file format incompatibilities, and painfully slow response even on new, fast systems. Major features might be present, but an amazing number of options are simply not implemented on the Mac platform; if you want those functions you need to use Windows, end of story. These are not features that depend specifically on underlying components of the Windows OS, either. These are things that could be implemented, but were left out. Transitioning from Windows to a Mac was painless aside from adjusting to the utter shit interface and amazing lack of features that is Mac Office. I'm just glad I didn't have to pay for the goddamn thing, because then I'd be really pissed. Thank you, academic site licensing, for saving me from financially rewarding Microsoft for this steaming turd of a software package.

Microsoft's goal here is pretty clear. Mac Office only sees significant updates when another competing program threatens it significantly (see Apple's implementation of Exchange support, and the subsequent announcement that Mac Office will be getting a full version of Outlook, for example). They put very little effort into it other than that, and in fact I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that Microsoft actively stifles attempts to make Mac Office too similar to the Windows version. Microsoft is not trying to make Mac users happy, they are trying to get Mac users to run Windows. Unfortunately for them, if the half-assed effort they put into Mac Office is the only experience many Mac users have with Microsoft, they aren't going to be impressing anyone enough to gain any converts.

I am all for having a standard UI guideline set for a specific OS. It's a great idea and it helps ensure that end users will be able to consistently predict what will happen when they click X or where control Y ought to be or what keyboard shortcut Z might be expected to do. But in Microsoft's case I'll throw all that out the window in favor of an Office program that friggin' works on my Mac the same way it does on Windows.

(And before it devolves further: Yes, I could use Pages. Pages is fine if you need a simple word processor, but it isn't feature-rich enough to be a real option for many Word users. Apple could do better, but in reality they can't make a program that actually directly competes with Office, or Microsoft will stop developing Mac Office. We all know how well third-party packages do in implementing Office compatibility. Such a move would effectively kill the Mac as a business platform. And yes, I could use OpenOffice or NeoOffice, but there once more you run into the third-party compatibility: Microsoft doesn't document their features well enough for competitors to make anything that actually matches what Office can do, and no one in a business environment is going to run the risk of losing money just because a client or partner couldn't open a document, or worse opened it and discovered it looked like shit due to formatting issues between programs.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2010

no one in a business environment is going to run the risk of losing money just because a client or partner couldn't open a document

The number of people who ring me for advice on what to do with this attachment they can't open, which has been a .docx in roughly 90% of cases over the past two years, suggests that businesses in general are perhaps not making their software decisions on as rational a basis as one might assume.

I rather enjoy telling people that they have the option of creating incompatible attachments with OpenOffice for nothing, if they don't feel like creating them with the MS suite for several hundred dollars.
posted by flabdablet at 6:13 PM on January 14, 2010

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