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Office 2007 UI License 281

MikeWeller writes, "Microsoft has recently announced a new licensing program for the Office 2007 user interface. This page links to the license and an MSDN Channel9 interview about the program (featuring a lawyer). The program 'allows virtually anyone to obtain a royalty-free license to use the new Office UI in a software product. There's only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.' What does this mean for OpenOffice? Will traditional menus/toolbars hold up to an ever-increasing number of features, or will OO be forced to take on a new UI paradigm? With the gap between OO and MS Office widening, how is this going to affect users trying to move between the two platforms?" You need to sign the license before you can get the 120-page UI implementation guidelines, which are confidential.
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Office 2007 UI License

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  • Fair enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by El Lobo ( 994537 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:16AM (#16948290)
    Fair enough. You want to compete? Then work your ass off...
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu@gmaiTIGERl.com minus cat> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:20AM (#16948324) Journal

    So, what this seems to say: Microsoft will allow anybody and everybody to plant their seed (the ribbon UI), to start the viral/grassroots campaign to their way of doing things. Unless and until it conflicts with their existing products.

    It's royalty free... translation: Microsoft gets a free ad campaign. But for those who may not be familiar with the company Microsoft, Microsoft is not likely to be friendly about anyone using their UI on any product down the road they decide should be protected.

    So are these the dying rattle breaths of a behemoth unable to compete today? Or is it one more salvo (consider Ballmer and his innuendo about Microsoft's Novell-Linux pact) in a war to control even more tightly the computing business world?

  • Ingenuity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:21AM (#16948336)
    Ingenuity is Microsoft's best friend when it comes to fight GPL-licenced products. We are seeing the beginning of that.

  • The Gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:22AM (#16948358)
    >>With the gap between OO and MS Office widening...

    Well this is an interesting statement full of subjective possibility. I could probably argue a half dozen different interpretations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:27AM (#16948418)
    One thing that those who dislike the X Window System often suggest is that it lacks consistency. They say that the GUI styles change too much between different applications, and then they suggest that Windows offers a much more consistent GUI. Of course, we can see this is quite a false assertion to be making!

    Windows has just as little GUI consistency as X. This new Office interface totally deviates from anything they've done in the past. The IE7 interface is completely different, as well. It used to just be that it was certain apps, like iTunes and WinAmp, that used their own stylings. But with Microsoft's new GUIs, user interface consistency has become a thing of the past on Windows.

    I wonder if we'll still hear such Windows advocates use the point that most Windows applications tend to use a consistent interface style. If they do, we can surely shoot their sorry asses down. As it stands, the only platform offering consistent UIs is Mac OS X. Otherwise, Windows has become just as much of a hodge-podge of different appearances and UI layouts as a typical X installation.

  • Re:Ha-ha! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MartinJW ( 961693 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:32AM (#16948474)
    Well, every reviewer condemned the UI changes M$ did for the new office suite.

    Did they? I seem to recall that the majority of reviews (I have read) actually thought the ribbon was a bad idea, until they tried it - at which point they thought it a great enhancement in managing the function bloat.
  • by phase_9 ( 909592 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:34AM (#16948510) Homepage
    So, what this seems to say: Microsoft will allow anybody and everybody to plant their seed (the ribbon UI), to start the viral/grassroots campaign to their way of doing things. Unless and until it conflicts with their existing products.

    Couldn't have said it better myself. This is Microsoft's way of trying to get a 'unique new interface' rolled out as rapidly as possible. If you're not using this 'unique new interface' then you know you're behind the time - hell, knowing Microsoft products, it also means you're probably about to be EOL [microsoft.com]'d!

    "Dude, You're still using XP with those crappy flat menus.... wow..."

    I genuinely hope that the public don't buy this latest round of Msft. bullsh-t, Office 2003 is still perfectly capable, why should users be forced to upgrade?


  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:35AM (#16948530)
    This is not the first time MS has placed this kind of restriction. The MSDN, a large pack of software used by subscription and intended for developers, has had a similar restriction since well before 2000. It says, in a nutshell, that you can use the software to develop anything except a general purpose suite of office software.

    It's kind of stupid to offer development tools and then restrict developers, especially if you're interested in convincing people that you're not using your monopoly improperly. It looks bad. But I gotta ask, why on Earth should open source developers care?

    Do you want to be in Microsoft's shadow? Are you an "almost as good" substitute for MS, or are you actually better? Do you have origional ideas?

    AMD didn't get where it is now by continuing to copy Intel. It got here by at some point realizing it could do better. Intel ended up following them. If you want to look, act and be just like Microsoft, then you should be upset over this. If you want to look and act like something better, then this is just a good reminder that that is your goal.

  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eighty4 ( 987543 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:36AM (#16948540) Homepage
    What does this mean for OpenOffice?

    Of course I didn't RTFA, but considering that OO.o is a) multiplatform, b) open source, and c) doing fine as it is, I'd imagine the folks at OO.o will be filing this under D for Don't Give A Shit.

    Seriously - would you lose any sleep because MS won't give you a new toy? Even if OO.o wanted it, and even if MS gave them it, they probably couldn't use it because it'll probably be Vista- (or at least Windows-)only.

    And seeing as most critics have slammed the new MS Office UI as being generally awful, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that OO.o's similarity to the "old" MS Office UI might pick them up a few users.

  • Compatibility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:38AM (#16948568) Journal
    While I love to sell OO to my friends on the fact that it's so compatible with Office that's the only thing about it's compatibility that I like.

    Office for the most part has had a good UI. It has served people well over the years with millions of people getting used to it and being productive with it. Copying the interface and features of Office is a good way to get people to switch (Hey, it's free and it does the same thing, cool!).

    But in the end I think all this "we can do that too" mentality ends up stifling free software. While I applaud the efforts of OO and am grateful for it's inclusion in modern distros I would also love to see them wake up one day and deceide they were going to take a "and now for something completely different" approach. Forget chasing the MS UI. Come up with your own, or stick to the one that's in there already and work on optimizing OO's use of resources. Create more filters for different file formats. Expand on the scripting capabilities to make OO a better tool for office automation. The UI is fine the way it is! Tweak it, yeah, but redo it to make it look like MS every few years? Screw that!

    I understand why they do it but watching the OO team spend the next few years implementing knock offs of ribbons only to see these supplanted by some new inane concept in Office 2010 just seems like a waste to me.
  • what what what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by awb131 ( 159522 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:44AM (#16948610)
    The license isn't royalty-free if you're building Office-style apps. So I ask, why would anyone want a royalty-free license for the user interface for Office applications (word processor, spreadsheet, database, personal info manager) unless they were building applications that would compete against Office?

    Brain explodes.
  • What gap ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:45AM (#16948628) Homepage Journal
    With the gap between OO and MS Office widening

    You mean Microsoft Office 2007 is so much worse than OpenOffice.org 2.0 and Microsoft Office 2003 ?
    It still doesn't number paragraphs (1.1, 1.2) or update references automatically whitout dirty hacks ?
    It still retains locks on directories when closed ?
    It still somehow corrupt your document once in a while (*) ?

    (*) Last month I needed to save the document as an XML document because saving it as .doc would cause MS Office to crash a few ops after opening the file.
  • by JohnQPublic ( 158027 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:48AM (#16948646)
    Hey, there's no law that says you have to make your application look like MS Office. But since most applications on Windows (and many FS/OSS applications as well) try to do so, it's nice to know how, and to know that the only folks who could try to stop you from doing it won't. Cut Microsoft a break here - they deserve it in this case.

    On the other hand, the strong implication in this is that Microsoft has defensible intellectual property underlying the Office 2007 UI. It wouldn't surprise me to find that there are a bunch of patents involved. So ... if you're against software patents, you should consider what approach to take. Personally, I'd avoid replicating their interface anyway.
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:49AM (#16948664) Journal
    You can copy any UI that you want to.

    This isn't about (AFAICT, and I'm not clicking through their legal stuff from work) "copying", it's about the licensing terms for their library. Which, for the benefit of the "dying rattle breaths of a behemoth unable to compete today" guy, are the same terms they've always used.

  • Re:Compatibility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by udderly ( 890305 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:59AM (#16948778)
    I still don't understand why most people think that they need MS Office as opposed to the numerous lower priced or free offerings. Most people simply don't understand that you *do not* need a $400 office suite for word processing. No joke, most people I know think that MS Word is the only way to type a letter to Grandma.

    Of the 500 or so users who work for my customers, only two individuals use any of the "advanced" features of Office. And both of these only use Mail Merge to create mass mailings. Hardly justifies the expense.

    Most people do not even understand how to even properly format documents in MS Word, yet they blindly drop $400 every time a new version comes out. Ridiculous.
  • I hope companies will see this for what it is: An attempt by Microsoft to do with a license trick what they are not able to accomplish with product quality.

    There is a social breakdown happening at Microsoft. Bill Gates is, apparently, no longer interested. The company is becoming more and more unable to complete projects.

    Microsoft never competed very well on technological merits, but now things are becoming worse. People think that Microsoft has been successful, but the company's success has always depended on tricking customers who don't have much technical knowledge. As customers become more technically knowledgeable, they realize more and more that Microsoft is adversarial.

    We who read Slashdot can make a difference. We can explain the issues to everyone we know and meet.

    Comedy and Tragedy of the Bush administration [futurepower.org]
  • Lipstick on a pig (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:03AM (#16948826)
    Microsoft put a new UI on MS Office because Microsoft said that the users of MS Office could not find all of the features in the product. What Microsoft has not commented upon was whether the users wanted to find any more of the features besides the ones that they use.

    I would venture to say that the overwhelming majority of MS Office users do not need to use, or even want to use, most of the features that are present in those bloated applications.

  • Re:Ingenuity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Josh Lindenmuth ( 1029922 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `htumnednilhsoj'> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:08AM (#16948946) Journal
    I don't know if I'd say this is the "beginning". Microsoft has been investing Billions in research and design for years, the new Office UI is simply an extension of that. They've also been allowing developers to use their UI components for years, the only difference here is that developers will not be able to use those UI components for a product that replicates the functionality within Excel, Word, Access, or PowerPoint.

    For developers creating Windows products, this is a great license to obtain. I really don't see much of an impact on OpenOffice, as it doesn't even attempt to place any restrictions on what competitors can do, it just states that competitors can't use their Ribbon interface. Since OpenOffice is cross-platform, its developers would probably never choose to use the MS Interface outright, but likely develop their own similar Ribbon interface (if it was even worth porting, which is debatable), since it would be more compatible accross platforms and limit legal liability.

    Microsoft will always spend Billions on creating slicker and easier to use interfaces. This has almost zero impact on Linux's server market (and advantages), which is why Linux has made such market share inroads on the server side. The impact is greatest though on the Desktop, where ease of use, ease of installation, and UI friendliness are far more important (and these are areas that are given a relatively lower priority by the programmers than by the Microsoft Marketing and Strategy departments).
  • by RareButSeriousSideEf ( 968810 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:10AM (#16948974) Homepage Journal
    "Will traditional menus/toolbars hold up to an ever-increasing number of features, or will OO be forced to take on a new UI paradigm?"

    How about turning that on it's head? "Will the paradigm of an ever-increasing number of features hold up to the reality of having to present them in a UI of some sort?"

    I've been using office-style apps heavily since about Office 4, and I haven't seen many new features at all that I consider essential -- *especially* not ones that require adding UI elements to accommodate them. MS's own focus group studies show time and time again that 90% of Office features end up in the "rarely used" category anyway.

    I use Office 2007 some, and I'm pretty neutral on the ribbon since I do most tasks via keyboard shortcut anyway. For my money (or lack thereof), let OOo keep its traditional menus & toolbars. Just make keyboard shortcuts consistent across an office suite, get the fundamental features right, minimize the bugs & make the memory & disk footprints as light as you can.

    The Ribbon may be da new shiznit and whatnot, and by virtue of MS's market penetration may even end up being the "look" that all others are compared to. Even if that happens, though, I have a hard time seeing *feature bloat* being the driving factor behind what UI paradigm wins out.
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:45AM (#16949662) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad Microsoft is so innovative, because, you know, shaping a menu and toolbar differently is new, non-obvious, novel, and there is certainly no prior [adobe.com] art containing anything similar [adobe.com], certainly not anything preceding it by a decade.

    Given the obvious use of technology here and the subjectiveness of what may constitute a ribbon, and how broadly companies like Microsoft tend to paint their patents, I would contend that their "ribbon" is simply taking the Adobe Creative Suite's toolbar scheme that has been around for a decade and simply repainting it to fit in Microsoft Office components. Likewise, one can argue that since context-sensitive toolbars have been around for about 20 years, and buttons in those toolbars have optionally spawned menus when clicked for at least ten years, that there is NOTHING AT ALL new about a Microsoft "ribbon" aside from the artwork, which is covered by COPYRIGHT, not a patent.
  • by shaneh0 ( 624603 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:57AM (#16949942)
    "the dying rattle breaths of a behemoth unable to compete today?"

    I'm sorry, but your flair for the dramatic is a little much, even by slashdot standards.

    "dying rattle breaths?" "unable to compete?"

    Please. Aside from the notorious cash reserves, they're still making profits hand over fist.

    When they start posting red ink, then we'll talk, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you...
  • Re:Compatibility (Score:2, Insightful)

    by coding_sheep ( 782156 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#16950002)
    Business customers are paying the $400 to get Outlook not Word. Outlook's calendar is used to schedule most activities in large organizations. So really it is the integration provided by Exchange that people are paying for. If you don't use/need that integration then you are wasting $400.
  • by ewl1217 ( 922107 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:05AM (#16950080)
    This just doesn't sound right. Here we have a known monopoly, with strong control of the desktop operating system and office suite markets. Isn't it in the slightest bit anti-competitive for them to offer this free to anybody but their competitors? I'm no expert on the legal side of things, but this is the exact kind of thing that anti-trust laws are supposed to prevent.
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:41AM (#16950736) Homepage Journal
    I read somewhere that Windows Vista includes applications with 5 different UIs because not everything was upgraded to work with the new Vista UI, and some of it hasn't been upgraded since 3.1.
    Windows 3.1 was 16-bit. I don't think they're lazy enough to thunk their own OS tools through wowexec. I'm going to need a source for that. I mean, I read somewhere that Steve Ballmer is the mortal enemy of chairs and underarm deodorant. That sounds a lot more plausible.
  • by Duhavid ( 677874 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:47AM (#16950822)
    If it (the office suite) is so good, then why is Microsoft afraid of competition in this area?
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:56AM (#16950984)
    "Developers, Developers, Developers" may be a running joke around here, and you may not be a fan of MSDN and the other tool sets, but if you code Windows solutions for pay, fuck you, I'm using them.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Part of the reason that MS is successful is because there is nobody out there that makes development for their platform as easy as MS. Maybe if some other companies would have somebody screaming about developers and throwing chairs, then those companies would be just as successful in this way. MS gives me tools, and makes it EASY. The OSS community tells me to RTFM. I'll give ya' one guess what I use to develop my business tools.
  • by smitty97 ( 995791 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:01PM (#16952308)
    The new Office UI dynamically changes based on what you're doing. The ribbon starts with some common (and buried) features for the task you're working on (like changing a font). As you use it, the ribbon drops what you use infrequently and presents new choices. This is nothing like Quanta, and it's clear you haven't used Office's new UI at all.
    I hate that shit. That's not new either. It's the "personalized menus" that hides all the commands you're looking for. What useless garbage. I love reinstalling an app and having to hunt for shit. I suppose "muscle memory" doesn't mean anything to you.
  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:39PM (#16953164) Homepage Journal
    if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.'

    So if you are doing word processing, document editing, email, calendars, diagramming, data storage/database, reporting, presentations, or anything else useful for end-users, there is no royalty-free option.

    If you are doing a Mickey Mouse IM, media player, or something else that can't generate revenue due to widespread competition, feel free to implement a UI that is incompatible with any platform other than Windows. (See above.)

    Read what is said, people, not what you want to hear.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:06PM (#16953758) Homepage
    If it (the office suite) is so good, then why is Microsoft afraid of competition in this area?

    Why face competition when you can stifle it? Saying you can make GUIs which look just like ours unless you compete with us gets their paradigm adopted but ensures they don't have to compete with another product which ahs incorporated their (ugly) GUI changes.

  • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:10PM (#16953854) Homepage Journal
    Just wait until your app needs something you can't do with drag-and-drop and you find out how useful all this Microsoft technology is. My experience with MS tools (15+ years) is that the application frameworks are brain-dead easy until you get outside its very narrow solution domain, then it's as hard or harder than than doing it from scratch.

  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:19AM (#16962508) Homepage
    ... have you ever tried to generate an excel document with charts without using an office object? can't really be done in a secure (read: won't potentially crash your IIS box) manner due to needing office installed. in an environment where reports (excel, ppt, word) are generated by a site this is priceless.

    You're stuck in that position because of the file format and wouldn't be in that position if

    1. Third party tools had access to the complete file format specification so the actually could generate an 'excel document {sic}' with charts. That's not gonna happen with existing formats and the licensing questions about MOOX / DOCX suggest future replacement formats out of Redmond may not help out so much with that.

      ... or ...

    2. There was a universal format [odfalliance.org] that included spreadsheets (aka 'excel documents') and charts, etc.

    The solution's been visible for a long time. It's only lately that it's been within grasp [opendocume...owship.org].

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!