Is Office the New Coke?

When I downloaded and installed IE7 when it became available, the very first thing I noticed (and believe I commented on at the time) was that Microsoft had abandoned the old CUA/SAA user interface that had been in place throughout their products for the last 15 years or so. I haven’t obtained or installed Office 2007 but Dale Franks has and, judging from his comments and screen shots, Microsoft has completely abandoned the old interface conventions in favor of new and (at least to me) arbitrary and confusing ones.

What this means for average users is that they’ll have to learn find “intuitive” a completely new way of interacting with programs. Will someone, somewhere fall in love with the new user interface conventions? No doubt. But for most it will be an irritant.

There are, apparently, enough differences in the default file formats created by the new Office (pointed out by Dale, above) that medium and large companies in which hundred, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of users share documents and interact with each other will find that they have a handful of alternatives: convert everybody to the new Office (probably not an expense they were planning for), standardize on Office 2003, or deal with the chaos that multiple formats creates.

In a just world users would rebel against this just as soft drink consumers rebelled against New Coke nearly a generation ago. But it’s not a just world, Microsoft has a monopoly in the desktop software market, and, what’s worse, it has hegemony and users will go over to the new Office willy-nilly as that’s what’s installed on their new computers.

UPDATE: James must have been writing his review at the same time.

Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Sorry about that, James. I didn’t even see your take. 😉

  2. James Joyner says:

    Heh. It happens.

    Usually, I just consolidate the second post into the first one as an UPDATE (Dave Schuler): but I figure the “New Coke” angle is sufficiently different to serve as a stand-alone.

  3. jeff b says:

    If the interface is completely different, you can take the opportunity to try another completely different interface and see if you like it: Mac OS. Or heck, Ubuntu Linux.

  4. tylerh says:

    Or, you could switch to an office program that has always moved between different file formats because it had to: Open Office. You certainly can’t beat the price 8)

  5. Tlaloc says:

    Open Office.

    Pretty much all the usability of MS Office and it doesn’t feed a totally corrupt monopoly.

    Oh yeah, and it’s free.

  6. Jayson Billington says:

    With all due respect the new interface is a marked improvement over the older one. Microsoft spends a lot of resources getting user feedback and something like 90% of the features that were requested for Office already exist but that people can’t find due to the awful interface of the previous versions.

    Not everything new is bad. New coke was not an improvement in any quantifiable way, the new Office UI is.

  7. carpeicthus says:

    I liked New Coke.