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Why so much irony about MS Bob?

Why do so many people criticize MS for MS Bob?

It was a failed product. I think that all the successful medium and large businesses today had released several failed products during their histories.

Have you never made a mistake?

Microsoft made one with Bob. And they found out that such a product doesn't sell.

I think that 100% of the companies with more than 5 years of history have had an unsuccessful product.

Matrix
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

At http://home.pmt.org/~drose/aw-win3x-16.html you can find a MS Bob description with screenshots.

It isn't such a bad program, if you don't take into account the extremely dumb name. :-)

Matrix
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I think the name has a lot to do with the legacy this software has left. Bob is just a stupid name for a software package, the same way PowerPoint is a stupid name for a person. Maybe if it had a normal name we would have all forgotten about it by now.

Craig
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The problem with MS Bob was that the hype machine was cranked up until it was white-hot for something which really wasn't worth making all that much fuss over.

An old article, but an analysis nonetheless:

http://www.post-gazette.com/businessnews/19990523bob6.asp

TheGeezer
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I think the problem was, people who knew how to drive a computer felt patronized.

And the people who didn't know how to drive felt talked down to.

Even now, when I see clippy in any form, even when I'm asking a question that clippy can answer, I automatically click the close button without even looking at what he says.  And my wife, on the opposite end of the scale in computer knowledge, does the same.

Snotnose
Thursday, July 15, 2004

And I realize I map "clippy" to "bob".  They are one and the same, aren't they?

Ok, clippy was the tip of Bob's iceberg.  But they are pretty much the same, are they not?

Snotnose
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I recall reading a Microsoft PM explaining that Bob actually tested well, and that about half the user population actually liked Bob and found him useful.

The big problem was that reviewers hated him and found him irksome.

Me And The View Out The Window
Thursday, July 15, 2004

> Bob is just a stupid name for a software package

You could always call it Kate for short.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

The biggest problem with BOB was that somebody said "lets take the most unpopular element of this failed project and put it into our flagship business software."

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I always thought it was because BOB looks like BYOB, and people want their software to come with beer!

sir_flexalot
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I think that MS Bob is more like the time when a school's egomaniac track star finally screwed up, and fell on his face during the "big race"... immediately after getting up, he knows he'll hear about that one for the rest of his life.

Everyone likes to see the big guys fail (see also: NY Yankees) - especially when the big guy in question has no possible retort.

Greg Hurlman
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Didn't Bob build on 'ideas' of next-generation interfaces coming from academic research? MS has never shied away from this, and even bet the company on quite unproven ideas sometimes. When it goes right, everyone is shouting "oh , we were doing this 20 years ago" (yeah right, you wrote a vague conceptual "paper" open to a million interpretations and had a grad student implement an undebugged illustrative toy version at best). When it goes wrong, they're the laughing stock, and all the self proclaimed "visionaries" keep quiet.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Not only MS got a pie in the face from it. MS Bob was implemented in Common Lisp, and I hear the jokes were thick about lisp... essentially what happens is if something succeeds, you keep quiet about your "competitive advantage," and if you fail, you blame the tool. The Pragmatic Programmers explain this. http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2004/06/24/pragmatic_programmers.html

I'm suspecting the same thing might happen with Simonyi's Intentional Programming:
http://alu.cliki.net/AudioVideo#ip

Reminds me of Dragon Team though, if you've read Ender's Game. ;)

Tayssir John Gabbour
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"The problem with MS Bob was that the hype machine was cranked up until it was white-hot for something which really wasn't worth making all that much fuss over"

Just like .net

.net, the equivalent of MS Bob.
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Odd, I don't remember Bob paying nearly as well... :P

Greg Hurlman
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I might be wrong, but wasn't the Program Manager for Bob a young woman named Melissa something? Might've changed her last name to Gates at some point?

Anony Coward
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Or Melinda, whatever her name is...

Anony Coward
Thursday, July 15, 2004

It had an interesting security feature: if you typed the wrong password 3 times, it asked you if you wanted to change the password.

Peter
Thursday, July 15, 2004


Melinda French Gates.

dot for this one
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lisp?  First I've heard that one.

Bob was implemented in an early version of VB, and, amongst its other problems, was not well performance-tuned.

The lesson I take away from Bob is simply that testing well -- and it tested EXTREMELY well -- does not necessarily translate into sales.  I gave copies of Bob to family members who had varying levels of computer phobia and they quite liked it.  It served its target audience well.

But since its target audience by definition never buys computer software, the only market was employees buying it at the company store for their computerphobic relatives.  You try marketing software to people who hate and fear computers some time, see how you do!

Eric Lippert
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Sir,

Do you have any examples of Micrsoft doing something before anybody else?

Microsoft are great at producing well crafted and accessible software, but I can never think of an instance where they ran with something unproven.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Eric, that's weird, I've heard it a number of times.
http://www.psg.com/~dlamkins/sl/chapter01.html

But hey, could be just one lying source which everyone repeats. Damn it, another lie, like you have to use recursion and lists all the time...

Tayssir John Gabbour
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ged,

AFAIK COM was the first large scale adoption of the component paradigm as the foundation for a major platform. MTS was a frontrunner of the AOP paradigm.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 15, 2004

I seem to remember buying a brand new computer w/ Windows 3.x sometime around 1993, and it coming preloaded with some very Bob-like program.  I know MS wasn't the only company who thought these things were a good idea!

Joe
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"The big problem was that reviewers hated him and found him irksome."

Nice - so computer experts felt comfortable passing judgement on software designed for beginners? Has anyone ever explained to them they might not be the best judges of software for beginners?

Ged - ClearType.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"AFAIK COM was the first large scale adoption of the component paradigm as the foundation for a major platform. MTS was a frontrunner of the AOP paradigm."

actually I think maybe OpenDoc from apple came first...dont quote me though, does anyone else know for sure?

FullNameRequired
Friday, July 16, 2004

The idea of having a picture of a room and clicking on the check book to balance your money is just plain stupid.
Mavis Beacon incidentally uses the same idiotic system.

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 16, 2004

"You could always call it Kate for short."

Now then, then now, now then...

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Friday, July 16, 2004

And which major platform would OpenDoc be the foundation of? Last I heard it was lost in a foodfight between some Apple-IBM-Novell developers calling eachother incompetent dweeps, and never heard from again. Bsides, wasn't OpenDoc more like the original OLE?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, July 16, 2004

"The idea of having a picture of a room and clicking on the check book to balance your money is just plain stupid."

Hey,  I just thought of a modern program that uses this same interface paradigm!

It's a Winnie the Pooh game for toddlers.  My 2 year old can pop balloons and learn opposites by clicking on stuff in a room (at least he will be able to once he masters the mouse).

Jim Rankin
Friday, July 16, 2004

"And which major platform would OpenDoc be the foundation of?"

<shrug> sorry, I must have misunderstood the interchange between you and Ged.

it appeared to me as though he asked for an example of MS doing something first, and you brought up COM.

my understanding of how COM works (which isn't great) made me think maybe it was similar in concept to opendoc, which I believe was in use on macos rather before both COM and OLE.

if thats all true it discredits your example of COM as being an idea that MS had before anyone else.

but your response appears to be somewhat disconnected from the conversation I thought we were having so ive clearly missed the point :)

...please excuse my intrusion.

FullNameRequired
Saturday, July 17, 2004

FNR,

I'm not intimitly familiar with the OpenDoc/OLE/COM timeline. My (vague) recollection is that OLE/OpenDoc originally where seen more as document object embedding: e.g. an Excel spreadsheat inside a Word document. The evolution of OpenDoc into COM seemed to rebirth the technology as a true foundation of the Windows system, fusing it firmly to a component approach. OpenDoc, while technicaly probably capable, never got to that level in any OS I believe.
My comments just tried to reflect that IMHO betting so allout on components was both an original and daring move at the time.

On a sidenote, being "first" with something seems far overrated. There is value in an original idea, although most seem to be shaped more by their time than by the bravado of a single author. To take new ideas and turn them into usefull stuff that works seems to me to be the far more difficult and intense part of the innovation process.

Just me (Sir to you)
Saturday, July 17, 2004

"The evolution of OpenDoc into COM" - that should be "the evolution of OLE ..." of course.

Just me (Sir to you)
Saturday, July 17, 2004

"I'm not intimitly familiar with the OpenDoc/OLE/COM timeline. My (vague) recollection is that OLE/OpenDoc originally where seen more as document object embedding"

yeah, that was certainly what the apple marketing focused on at the time, there was actually a lot more to opendoc than that. it was very much designed to allow for 'proper' components etc.

"OpenDoc, while technicaly probably capable, never got to that level in any OS I believe."

nah <g> apple dropped it in favour of Java IIRC

"On a sidenote, being "first" with something seems far overrated.
<snip>
To take new ideas and turn them into usefull stuff that works seems to me to be the far more difficult and intense part of the innovation process."

I totally agree, Ive no problem at all with MS, Apple, or any other computer company taking old ideas and redefining and reusing them.

<g> certainly if we insisted that every 'new' idea any of them had was required to be genuinely *new* the development efforts of the whole lot of them would grind to a halt.
...and xerox would have a monopoly on the gui...


My point was merely that possibly COM wasn't a good example of MS being 'first' at a new technology.
although if you redefine the question as 'first to take it to a particular stage' then it certainly works :)

FullNameRequired
Saturday, July 17, 2004

Philo - can you really call ClearType original?  You must have heard all the Apple nuts pointing out how subpixel rendering was a standard trick to get higher resolution graphics on the Apple II...

Iago
Monday, July 19, 2004

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