Archive for March, 2008

Ribbon positions

Monday, 3rd March, 2008

In all the ribbon discussions I have seen there seems to be 3 possible positions.

  1. Overall it was a bad move – the cons out weigh the pros
  2. Overall its was good, adds useful functionality without taking away anything important
  3. The ‘it happened get over it’ crowd.

Obviously I am in the first group, but I completely respect those that hold the second view. I think this comes down to personal priorities. Its a fact of development that there is a broad range of customers with a broad range of requirements. Its no surprise what works for one won’t for another.

The third group though, state the obvious and add nothing to the debate. Its not a problem to not care about a discussion, there are plenty of debates going on that I don’t care about. I just don’t bother joining in where I’m not bothered.

This third group seem to have limited options themselves and are perhaps unaware of options that are available. For example I am considering the option of moving more into Excel to OpenOffice Calc conversions because I think the ribbon is boosting that market. Others have moved into the ribbon replacement UI business for example. I’m also thinking about some more web-centric stuff too.

I do think its worth discussing the ribbon and the breaking UI changes MS are introducing throughout their products. Microsoft are listening and given enough encouragement could (possibly, maybe) be persuaded to change course.

Those who are less familiar with Microsoft may see it as a single entity with a single point of view. In fact like many organisations Microsoft is made up of people, and those people often have different points of view. There are people within the Office team that think a compatibility mode would have been a good thing. Just as there are people who are convinced the ribbon is the ‘one true way’.

They are currently part way through developing Office 14, if the community kick off enough, and if the ribbon can be blamed for weak sales, who knows what delights might await us in O14? I’m not holding my breath of course, neither am I sitting back.

I don’t think MS could back down and re-introduce commandbars. But they could open the object model back up for us devs to put them back. (In a no loss of face stylee).

Of course the fact that there is already a booming market in ribbon replacement UIs for Office should be cause for some rational thinking at MSO HQ.




Monday, 3rd March, 2008

Thats the sound of me getting blown out on a bid for work I just did.

It was a small project – just a few days work. But it was Office 2007. I have never made it over the UI barrier that everyone including Microsoft accepts is there for experienced users. I’ve had no need, all my fee paying clients till now have been on 97-03.

Most people are suggesting several weeks of reduced productivity in moving to 2007, and I havent seen any non-MS sponsored reports of improved productivity after, but thats by the by. This post isn’t about the ribbon its about the business of the ribbon.

I estimated an additional day because this project was 07 rather than 03. Who should pay that? Me or the client? I costed in half of it. (and didn’t get the job)

You could argue I should pay to learn the new UI as an investment in my future consulting business. Thats totally valid, but the ribbon is not one of my current investment targets, I am investing in other areas.

You could argue the client should pay, they insist on using 07, so its a cost of their platform choice. I think thats valid too, but possibly an easier sell on a larger project.

Personally I think Microsoft should fund the training – they forced the UI on us disregarding the massive opposition. They also ignored the many requests for a compatible UI option. They chose not to default it to something a current user would recognise. They stand to benefit from an updated ecosystem to support their latest products.

So is it Microsofts fault I didn’t get the work? no of course not. I have prioritised my learning investments and the 2007 UI has not made it to the top of the list yet.

I’d prefer my free course somewhere warm and sunny please MS, the weather is dreadful here.

Ribbon – who should pay?



Microsoft v Google 2

Saturday, 1st March, 2008

Does Google have an advantage that we don’t pay them directly for anything? All their services appear ‘free’

Even with the recent price cuts on Vista we still give our money to Microsoft directly. (views on the cuts? proves its rubbish? normal marketing? (its normal to discount old stock approaching its best before date, or to make way for a new product), brave? desperate? irrelevant?)

With Google we pay inflated prices for a whole bunch of random stuff so companies can cover their ad-words spend. Some IT vendors are spending 30% of their revenue on adwords, if we found and bought their products without that advertising we could pay that much less, and they would still make the same profit.

There is also the new v old thing, and I think Google PR is a bit more in-tune with todays world. Of course they also have the advantage of not yet being done for monopolist behaviour.

In many ways I prefer the visibility of giving a known amount of money in return for a known product or level of service. That whole, ‘its free’ (because we’ll sell an undefined amount of data about your preferences to an undefined (possibly unlimited) group of people) is a bit too open ended for me. What do you think?

As a matter of interest XLAnalyst was(/is) ‘researchware’ – free to use in return for submitting some anonymous metrics. Of the thousands of people that have downloaded it, only a handful (10-20 max) ever submitted the data back. Seems people like free, but don’t like to share a sliver of info in payment, and won’t if its optional.