Microsoft Bob

Microsoft Bob

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Microsoft Bob was a Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 software product, released in March 1995, which provided a new, nontechnical interface
Interface (computer science)
In the field of computer science, an interface is a tool and concept that refers to a point of interaction between components, and is applicable at the level of both hardware and software...

 to desktop computing operations. It was one of Microsoft's more visible product failures. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer
Steven Anthony "Steve" Ballmer is an American business magnate. He is the chief executive officer of Microsoft, having held that post since January 2000. , his personal wealth is estimated at US$13.9 billion, ranking number 19 on the Forbes 400.-Early life:Ballmer was born in Detroit, Michigan to...

 mentioned Bob as an example of a situation "where we decided that we have not succeeded and let's stop".


Microsoft Bob was designed for Windows 3.1x, and intended to be a user-friendly interface for Microsoft Windows, supplanting the Program Manager
Program Manager
Program Manager is the shell of Windows 3.x and Windows NT 3.x operating systems. This shell exposed a task-oriented graphical user interface , consisting of icons arranged into program groups. It replaced MS-DOS Executive, a file manager, as the default Windows shell.The program derives from the...

. At one point, the project was managed by Melinda French
Melinda Gates
Melinda Ann French , later known as Melinda French Gates, is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. She is the wife of Bill Gates...

, who at the time was Bill Gates
Bill Gates
William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author. Gates is the former CEO and current chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen...

' girlfriend (the two later married). At the time French left Microsoft, she was Product Unit Manager for a group which included Bob and three other Microsoft titles. The project leader for Bob was Karen Fries, a Microsoft researcher. The design was based on research by Professors Clifford Nass
Clifford Nass
Clifford Nass is a professor of communication at Stanford University, co-creator of The Media Equation theory, and a renowned authority on human-computer interaction. He is also known for his work on individual differences associated with multitasking. Nass is the Thomas M. Storke Professor at...

 and Byron Reeves of Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. Microsoft originally owned the domain name
Domain name
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System ...., but traded it to Bob Kerstein for the domain name.


Bob included various office suite programs such as a finance application and a word processor
Word processor
A word processor is a computer application used for the production of any sort of printable material....

. The user interface was designed to simplify the navigational experience for novice computer users.

Similar to early graphical shells like Jane
Jane (software)
Jane 128 was a GUI-based integrated software package for the Commodore 128 personal computer developed by Arktronics and released by Commodore International in 1985...

, the main interface is portrayed as the inside of a house, with different rooms to correspond to common real-world room styles such as kitchen and family room. Each room can contain decorations and furniture, as well as icons that represent applications. Bob offers the user the option of fully customizing the entire house. The user has full control over decorating each room, and can add, remove, or reposition all objects. The user can also add or remove rooms from the house and change the destinations of each door. There is also a feature in which Bob offers multiple themes for room designs and decorations, such as contemporary and postmodern.

The applications built into Bob are represented by matching decorations – for example, clicking on a clock opens the calendar, while a pen and paper represent the letter writer. The user can also add shortcuts to applications on his or her computer. These shortcuts display the icon inside various styles of decorations such as boxes and picture frames.

Released right as the internet was beginning to become popular, Bob offered an email client where a user could subscribe to MCI Mail
MCI Mail
MCI Mail was a commercial email service that was operated by MCI Communications Corp. during the period 1983 - 2003. The service is widely credited with being the first commercial email service in the United States.-History:...

, a dial-up email account. The price was $5.00 per month to send up to 15 emails per month. Each email was limited to 5000 characters, and each additional email after the limit was reached was an additional 45 cents. A toll-free phone number had to be called to set up the account.

Bob features "Assistants": cartoon characters which can help the user navigate the virtual house or perform tasks in the main interface or within the built-in applications.

Bob in encrypted form was added to the Windows XP
Windows XP
Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...

install CDs to take up space and slow down illegal copies.

Gateway 2000 Edition

An edition of Microsoft Bob was bundled with Gateway 2000 around 1995, the version bundled with Gateway computers contained Gateway branding on the Login screen. Also the Gateway Edition contained additional rooms and backgrounds not seen in the retail version. One additional room was the attic which contained the box to a Gateway 2000 computer.

Negative awards

Despite being discontinued before Windows 98
Windows 98
Windows 98 is a graphical operating system by Microsoft. It is the second major release in the Windows 9x line of operating systems. It was released to manufacturing on 15 May 1998 and to retail on 25 June 1998. Windows 98 is the successor to Windows 95. Like its predecessor, it is a hybrid...

 was released, Microsoft Bob continued to be severely criticized in reviews and popular media.

Bob received the 7th place in PC World
PC World (magazine)
PC World is a global computer magazine published monthly by IDG. It offers advice on various aspects of PCs and related items, the Internet, and other personal-technology products and services...

 magazine's list of the 25 worst tech products of all time, a spot in Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine's list of the 50 Worst Inventions and number one worst product of the decade by
CNET is a tech media website that publishes news articles, blogs, and podcasts on technology and consumer electronics. Originally founded in 1994 by Halsey Minor and Shelby Bonnie, it was the flagship brand of CNET Networks and became a brand of CBS Interactive through CNET Networks' acquisition...


External links