Kindly remove your head from wherever it has been lately and give this a read please.

Anybody who has read this blog knows I’m not exactly a fan of Microsoft (kinda like Congress isn’t exactly a fan of cutting their own salaries).  I wanted to give you a view from some place where you spend no time at all: with an average person at home and work.

Today I was flagged down at work by a coworker who looked mighty frustrated.  She had a favor to ask.  When I finally deciphered what she wanted (“I have Windows 7 Office.  Or something.”), I knew this needed to be brought to the attention of the public and Microsoft.

My colleague purchased a laptop recently.  It came with Windows 7 preloaded, plus what I gather is a demo version of Office 2010.  She was totally upset about her purchase and wanted me to remove Office and install the version she uses at work (2003).  [Note: this is not permissible, as there is no existing Office license.]

This person drove home one of the points I have been making since Office 2007: namely that if you change things around and hide other important bits of the program, you are going to frustrate and alienate your userbase.

The lady complained that she can’t find anything due to the menus being hidden (Ribbon anyone?).  The other major complaint was that Office would not stop `helping’ her.  Every time she started typing, Word would make helpful suggestions and ask questions.  She was losing time, paragraphs, and patience.

Now Steve, I know that you think you know best, just like that Jobs fellow.  You have loads of consultants and user experience experts who tell you what people need and what is easier for them.  Unfortunately they’re wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong, like just having voted for the lesser of two evils.

Now allow me to back my colleague up from an IT standpoint.  First of all, I have a few hundred more, just like her (in case you were wondering why we’re using Office 2003, in spite of the generous discount you allow non-profits).  Oddly enough, they are going to have the same reaction to Windows 7 when we’re forced to roll that out.  Do you see a pattern here?

I gave Windows 7 a fair shot, both on hardware and in a virtual machine.  I’m having trouble understanding the rush to `upgrade’ from XP (policy options aside).  You hid things in 7, making everything harder to find.  What kind of outfit tries to alienate their users via redesign?  People who have been using Windows forever now have to go looking for everything.  Same for Server 2008.  Why on earth would you need to hide things from the guys who run the servers?  And while we’re at it, whose idea was it to turn off file extensions by default in Server?  Who are you `helping’ here, Steve?   What are you protecting us from?

The above goes part of the way to explaining why I use linux.  But I wanted to give you an honest look at what your customers are saying.  As your operating systems, browser, and office suites are losing market share, I felt you could use a bit of constructive input.

If history is any indication, you will maintain the status quo and Let Us Eat Cake (and like it).  But I’m hoping you (or your Board) are smart enough to pay attention to the Great Unwashed.  You know, your customers.