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Anatomy of an Innovation

And not just one but many; and not just ordinary innovations either but the ultimate kind: 'de novo innovations'.


Microsoft CEO 'Uncle' Steve Ballmer loves his company. He's proud of Microsoft. Microsoft make their own 'de novo innovations', says Steve, who goes on to explain that a 'de novo innovation' is something that originates at Microsoft.

One wonders seriously what Microsoft do with all their other innovations that aren't 'de novo' - but whatever. It's time to grease the wheels of the hype wagon and it's time to start blowing the bugles: Windows Vista is only one more year around the corner.

The latest maneuver involves new screenshots of Vista's space age interface. As presented by the dude pictured at right no less. Here's a sample. It's a 'Save As' dialog.

Let's first dismiss the gut reactions on this one. Let's dismiss the immediate thought 'who the F wants to look at all that every time you save a file?' No: let's look at it logically - and let's remember who showed this picture in public.

You're about to witness the world famous Microsoft Attention to Detail® again.


  • The dialog says 'Save File' in the upper left. As if the user needed reminding what the program was doing.
  • The document to be saved is ostensibly a 'MS Word Document' and yet the dialog offers the user the opportunity to save 'Alpha Channels'. Clearly Microsoft are so excited at the prospect of transparency that they want to put it everywhere.
  • 'Moving in for the kill': if you're going to put an alpha channel on plain text, why stop there? Why not add CMYK and ICC profiles? Why indeed not?
  • Note that 'Layers', 'Annotations', and 'Spot Colors' are dimmed out. Obviously this is to impress us at how discretionary Microsoft code can be. In other words, they really do want alpha channel, CMYK, and an ICC profile on a plain text document and we should be awed.
  • The path at the top of this dialog says 'Desktop > Pat > Documents'. The path at the bottom, placed in the wrong field by the wizards of Microsoft, says 'C:\Users\Pat\Documents'. Clearly there is some disagreement where this document really is.
  • The file obviously cannot be saved in 'MS Word Document'. Either the programmers got this wrong or this dialog is just a fake, but in either case it's a tremendous blooper for the world's richest criminal to go on stage and show something so slipshod - it's indicative of how little Microsoft are really capable of.
  • The paths themselves are getting more and more like the Apple/Unix setup. Even that they can't leave alone. Not that their 'Desktop' will ever be more than a confusing mistake, but still and all. Not that they'll ever scrap those embarrassing drive letters, but still and all.
  • The 'Type to Search' field in the upper right is a direct copy of Apple, but as per usual with Microsoft, they make a subtle change so they can call it a 'de novo innovation': the magnifying glass goes to the other side, just as they once took a Unix slash and twisted it ninety degrees counter clockwise.
  • The 'Keyword' field in the lower right is blank, but the keyword listed for this document in the list at the top is 'Planning CLT' (which is actually two words). Clearly the programmers weren't even able to make a real dialog for their boss to show off so they faked it - and still managed to make a cock-up job of it - something which the sharp eyes of their ever vigilant boss didn't catch.
  • This dialog measures 500 x 481 pixels. As such it covers nearly a quarter of a modern high resolution desktop. But the type is extremely small. If Microsoft were to make the type even a bit bigger, the right and bottom edges of the dialog might reach into the next time zone.

And all this just to save a file.

But are we supposed to be impressed when the programmers can't even get a fake to look right and their dimwitted boss doesn't even see the mistakes?

Or is the joke that their users are so used to the sloppy work that it doesn't matter anymore?

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