Microsoft's 'Enchanted Office' Comic Touts Ribbon

By Peter Galli  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

The software giant cranks up Office 2007 marketing with a Web-based fairly tale comic touting the new Ribbon-based user interface. Spoiler: Clippy dies.

Microsoft is using a Web-based comic strip to try to reach a broad set of consumers and convince them that they can benefit from the new Ribbon-based user interface found in Office 2007.

While much of the hype leading up to the consumer release of the 2007 Office system later in January has focused on the productivity benefits for knowledge workers, Microsoft has also realized the need for a more general consumer approach, the company said.

The comic, titled "The Enchanted Office: Once Upon a User Interface," is intended as a creative way to broaden the exposure of Office 2007 to the consumer market, a company spokesperson told eWEEK Jan. 3.

But, at the same time, the comic also attempts to address some of the most common questions of IT professionals and the needs of everyday information workers, she said.

eWEEK Labs says Office 2007 does break some new ground. Click here to read more.

The eight-page comic starts out with the protagonist, Madeline, a CEO, dreaming about "bad software and dwindling revenue," the solution to which is the new Office with its Ribbon-based user interface, Madeline's "advisors" tell her.

Microsoft is hoping the comic will help prepare potential users for this new, and very different, user interface. "The primary goal is to generate awareness of the new user interface and the next release among people in the workplace," the spokesperson told me.

"The new user interface is the most exciting visual element of the next release and the improvement most likely to create questions with customers, and therefore Microsoft wanted to convey the thought that the new UI is an innovation worth embracing, and the comic serves as one way to demonstrate this," she said.

Some experts like Peter Coffee, eWEEK's Technology Editor, have found Office 2007 to be very complex.

He said in a recent column that when he looks at the Office 2007 Ribbon, with its dynamically changing icons and artfully laid out columns of hierarchical menu entry points, "I feel like Tommy Webber, fictional cast member of the fictional TV series 'Galaxy Quest' in the 1999 movie of that name, when the aliens sat him down at the helm of a starship that they'd built from careful study of his TV footage—and expected him to pilot the thing out of space dock. Hoo, boy."

To read more about why Office 2007 could be off-putting, click here.

But, that being said, Coffee noted that it is crucial to get over that first impression of Office 2007.

"After all, there's already been a combinatorial explosion of possible arrangements of menus and tool bars in prior versions of Office, but somehow civilization hasn't collapsed under the strain. Research shows that people are actually masters of selective perception and quickly learn—for good or ill—to ignore what doesn't relate to what they're trying to do," he said.

Microsoft has not yet decided on the future of the comic, the spokesperson said.

Check out eWEEK.com's for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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