How many U’s in Microsoft?

Or should that be Micr-U-soft?

VBA out of MacOffice – U-Turn – VBA back in VNext of MacOffice

MacOffice 2004 out of mainstream support – U-Turn – 2.5 more years of mainstream support

Windows XP out of mainstream support – U-Turn – XP back in mainstream support for years for netbooks

User user interface customisation out in Office 2007 – U-Turn – User customisation back in in 2010.

Vista is the best OS – U-Turn – Win 7 will be the best OS

We are buying Yahoo! – U-Turn – We aren’t buying Yahoo!

I guess many of these are a good thing in the end, and better than the brutal slaying of VB6 with no regard for the billions of lines of now broken business code, and less sight of a U-Turn than our very own Baroness Thatcher the milk snatcher. So at least they are learning and improving.

I think its great that they (eventually) listen and make things right, I just wish they would not go so hopelessly wrong in the first place. But there is more coming. Help has been deteriorating in Office for ever and basically unusable since 2003. Their solution? analyse clicks on the on-line help! God knows what unrepresentative minuscule proportion of the user base that is, probably at least as bad as the CEIP data rubbish that caused the ribbon fiasco. (psst! Microsoft! we don’t use your stinkin’ help because its rraabbiisshh – we all use google!)

MS need to put their marketing numpties back in the box and get the product teams back in the feature list driving seat, and then get them out with real users. If they sacked the ribbon team they could allocate all that money to visiting real customers around the world. Sack the margeteers too and they could travel business class (well first class probably knowing how highly margeteers value themselves).

The pattern I am seeing is alarming. Are you seeing the same thing?

What other MS U-Turns have you spotted?

Obviously I’m just a little one man band, what do I know? Thats why I rarely post about MS business. But I am actually quite shocked by the frequency of these U-Turns – they are nearly as bad as Codematic!

cheers

Simon

Advertisements

25 Responses to “How many U’s in Microsoft?”

  1. Doug Glancy Says:

    Simon, I think your last two are a bit of a stretch (it’s expected that somebody’s most recent version is always going to be the “best”, and wasn’t the Yahoo thing a 2-way street?).
    Anyways, could you post more on UI customization in 2010? I haven’t downloaded it yet or paid much attention. I could google it, but it would be great to get more of your opinion/experience with this.

  2. Simon Says:

    The last two are a bit different but they were conducted in full comedy mode.
    I have a review of 2010 written I just need to check that its all out of NDA. The thing is its only a TP, I think there will be significant changes, and customisation, or the way of customisation may be (should be!) one of them. It’s currently the same as the QAT in 2007 which is pretty 1980’s. I’m sure they could do better – oh wait they did do better – in Excel 5.0 (1993)!
    The big question is have you seen other U-turns? (eg about not doing redundancies??)

  3. Jayson Says:

    I like the consolidation of the dozens of u-turns on the Yahoo deal…

  4. Simon Says:

    ha ha – I couldn’t be bothered counting the number of time it went back and forth!

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    ‘Vista is the best OS – U-Turn – Win 7 will be the best OS’

    Just a dash of cynicism needed: whatever would generate the most revenue is best.

    ‘We are buying Yahoo! – U-Turn – We aren’t buying Yahoo!’

    Yahoo! had a wee bit to do with this. Unclear Microsoft has lost much from this deal not going through.

    A few other of these U-turns seem to me less true reversals than pure BS disguising MSFT being unable to finish features before Marketing-mandated release dates (such as Office 2007 UI customization and VBA for Office 2008).

    With respect to VBA and Mac Office, either all the MSFT programmers who made QuickBasic, QuickC, etc are dead or retired with none of the newer people competent to take up such projects, or MSFT isn’t willing to spend more than anything on VBA and is too timit to put VSTA into Office (at this point probably because VSTA looks too much like Vista).

    Another big U-turn was BIFF8 file format made public through the Excel 97 SDK, then pulled to protect the company jewels, then OOXML becoming an ISO standard (in a rigged process – don’t know how y’all can stand the stench wafting off of ECMA), so the Excel file format once again made public. Of course MSFT needed to do that to preclude governments en masse dropping MSO in favor of software that supported open document formats.

    Cynicism again: MSFT does what it does initially to maximize revenues or profits, then at the tird or fourth resulting set of lawsuits it decides to act within the law. Less inconsistent or bipolar than sociopathic.

  6. JP Says:

    How about

    Steady improvements to Excel – U-Turn – The Ribbon

  7. Mathias Says:

    OK, just for kicks, (love playing Devil’s Advocate) – all these reversals are the sign of a company that listens to its user base and adapts its strategy based on customer feedback. As the French say, only fools never revise their position!

  8. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    @Harlan,

    “Just a dash of cynicism needed: whatever would generate the most revenue is best.”

    True. Chomsky says it even more eloquently by pointing at concise sentences meant to allow the interpretation you like. In that case, “best” for who ?

    “being unable to finish features before Marketing-mandated release dates (such as Office 2007 UI customization and VBA for Office 2008).”

    True as well. I’ve noticed too they never complete a feature in one product cycle. And that’s not only visible features.

    “With respect to VBA and Mac Office, either all the MSFT programmers who made QuickBasic, QuickC, etc are dead or retired with none of the newer people competent to take up such projects, or MSFT isn’t willing to spend more than anything on VBA and is too timit to put VSTA into Office”

    Not sure about that. They have a 64-bit edition, which means they must have put their dirty fingers on the old codebase again since the stuff that was blocking was VBA.
    Unlesss of course they got SummtSoftware to do the work.

    “Another big U-turn was BIFF8 file format made public through the Excel 97 SDK, then pulled to protect the company jewels”

    What was made public until 1998 was a fraction of BIFF8. If you take it and look at what it says for say the HLINK record :


    Offset Name Size Description
    4 rwFirst 2 First row of the hyperlink

    6 rwLast 2 Last row of the hyperlink

    8 colFirst 2 First column of the hyperlink

    10 colLast 2 Last column of the hyperlink

    12 rgbHlink var Hyperlink stream (from the Office DLL; this stream is not documented)

    It took the ISO mess and the EU scrutiny to get Microsoft to push actual documentation of BIFF8, that is almost all of it including VBA. Still, even today, all the international related stuff is missing.

    Regarding U-turns, I think there is definitely more coming now that Excel 2010 plays in the backyard of SQL Reporting services.

  9. Simon Says:

    Mathias
    you read the bit where I said “I think its great that they (eventually) listen and make things right” ?
    My point is why did they get it so wrong in the first place?

  10. Harlan Grove Says:

    With regard to the difficulty of porting VBA, is it really more difficult than porting Java VMs? Is it due to being so closely tied to the applications?

  11. sam Says:

    Simon,
    You missed out on a big one.
    Office Blob (oops Button oops Menu) – U Turn – File Menu(Opps Tab…)

    http://blogs.technet.com/office2010/archive/2009/08/17/evolving-the-backstage-view.aspx

  12. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    “With regard to the difficulty of porting VBA, is it really more difficult than porting Java VMs? Is it due to being so closely tied to the applications?”

    In-process loading, old-style method signatures, VARIANT tie-ins, thread apartments. All that. with backwards compatibility in mind. Definitely more a mess than Java, which is a separate exe.

  13. Harlan Grove Says:

    @sam –

    I loved this quote from the article you linked, which came after they changed to using the word ‘File’ in the tab: ‘This has been a tremendous success in the usability labs and we’ve seen an incredible surge in initial discoverability of the Backstage view.’

    I suppose this means MSFT didn’t bother trying out Office 2007 in the usability labs before inflicting it on world & dog. Jensen Harris & crew were just SO CERTAIN their New & Improved! UI was better it just didn’t need usability testing.

  14. dougaj4 Says:

    sam – that’s a pretty impressive spoof site.

    It is a spoof, right?

  15. Jon Peltier Says:

    I don’t think the site Sam linked to is a spoof site, but those can’t be real comments.

  16. sam Says:

    @Harlan,

    From the Article:
    “Over and over in the usability lab, customers told us the word “File” was something they were looking for in the UI – all the years of using the File menu to use commands like “Save As” and “Print” is a hard habit to break. So we’ve listened to our customers and in our Beta release you’ll see we’ve added the “File” label to the tab. ”

    Well they have a strange set of customers locked up in the “Usability Labs” – Chimps/Pigs/Pigeos …

    Because couple of years ago in the same lab the same customers told them they were not looking for the “File” Word….but a shiny colorful blob

    However I am filled with hope after reading that post

    2010 – Brings back the “File” Tab

    2013(oops 14 we know 13 cant be used :) ) – Brings back the “Edit Tab”

    2016 – Bring back the the “View Tab”
    .
    .
    .
    By 2020 – We have the Menus and Toolbars – And U Turn – Bill Gates back on Top(of the Excel Development team :-)

    Simon,
    You missed an other big U Turn….
    77.1*850 = Calculated as 65535 and Displayed as 100000 – U Turn – Calculated and Displayed as 65535 :-)

  17. Simon Says:

    Watching the Office UI team work out the gobsmackingly bleedin obvious is like watching a small child discovering everything new for the first time. Its as if there was some freaky accident in the UI team HQ and all 30 years worth of corporate memory got wiped

  18. Bob Phillips Says:

    Can someone tell me what a ‘usability lab’ actually is. I thought it was all based on SQRM data, LCD.

    As to ‘… all the years of using the File menu to use commands like “Save As” and “Print” is a hard habit to break …’, take that to its obvious conclusion wouldn’t that mean you brfing back classic menus. Me, all thos years of using Tools, Windows and so on is still a hard habit to break.

    @Sam, you’re getting more cynical than Simon. Careful!

  19. sam Says:

    Another One !
    “In Excel 2007, the ability to directly resize or reposition points on the chart was deprecated”

    U Turn – You now Can by downloading the addin…

    http://blogs.msdn.com/excel/archive/2009/11/02/excel-add-in-for-manipulating-points-on-charts-mpoc.aspx

  20. dougaj4 Says:

    “U Turn – You now Can by downloading the addin…”

    … written entirely in VBA :)

    Open source too!

  21. sam Says:

    Open source too! – They know there is no point protecting it with a password….its only a hex editor away from becoming open source again :-)

  22. Jon Peltier Says:

    That was then…

    Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog : Designing Against a Degrading Experience:

    “[O]ne of our goals for the Office 2007 user interface is that Day 1 looks like Day 101.”

    (that is, the interface doesn’t change)

    This is now…

    Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering : Making the Ribbon Mine

    “Office is used by approximately one billion people worldwide, and we know the default organization of commands can’t possibly match the preferences of every single one of our customers.”

    (that is, users know best what their interface needs, and they are allowed to change it).

  23. sam Says:

    In 2007 the ability to launch the format dialog when double clicking on a chart element was deprecated

    U – Turn

    In 2010 you can double click to get the format dialog on chart

    How of shapes and pictures…well next time

  24. Jon Peltier Says:

    Sam –

    A lot of the U-Turns aren’t really u-turns. They’re more like “unable to fit it into the 2007 schedule, but we’ll try for 2010.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: