Microsoft Bob was a Microsoft software product that was released on March 11, 1995 and discontinued in early 1996. The program was intended to provide a more user-friendly interface for the Windows 3.1x, Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems, supplanting the Windows Program Manager. Microsoft Bob presented screens showing a "house", with "rooms" that the user could go to containing familiar objects corresponding to computer applications—for instance, a desk with pen and paper, a checkbook, and other items. In this case, clicking on the pen and paper would open the word processor.
A cartoon dog named Rover and other cartoon characters provided guidance using speech balloons. Rover and a few others later returned in Windows XP as "Search Companions".
Upon release, Microsoft Bob was criticized in the media and did not gain wide acceptance with users, which resulted in its discontinuation.
|Initial release||March 10, 1995|
1.00a / August 30, 1995
|Operating system||Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, XP |
Microsoft Bob was released in March 1995 (before Windows 95 was released), although it had been widely publicized prior to that date under the codename "Utopia". The project leader for Bob was Karen Fries, a Microsoft researcher. The design was based on research by Professors Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves of Stanford University. Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, was marketing manager for the product. Microsoft originally purchased the domain name bob.com from Boston-area techie Bob Antia, but later traded it to Bob Kerstein for the windows2000.com domain name.
Bob included various office suite programs such as a finance application and a word processor. The user interface was designed to simplify the navigational experience for novice computer users.
Similar to early graphical shells like Jane, the main interface is portrayed as the inside of a house, with different rooms corresponding to common real-world room styles such as a kitchen or family room. Each room contains 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 word processor. 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 with which a user could subscribe to MCI Mail, 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 intended to help the user navigate the virtual house or perform tasks in the main interface or within the built-in applications.
An edition of Microsoft Bob was bundled with the Gateway 2000 computer around 1995. The Gateway Edition contained Gateway branding on the Login screen along with 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. Along with the additional rooms, there were more icons that appeared by default in the new rooms.
Bob was one of Microsoft's more visible product failures. Despite being discontinued before Windows 95 was released, Microsoft Bob continued to be severely criticized in reviews and popular media. In 2017, Melinda Gates acknowledged that the software "needed a more powerful computer than most people had back then".
Bob received the 7th place in PC World magazine's list of the 25 worst tech products of all time, number one worst product of the decade by CNET.com, and a spot in a list of the 50 worst inventions published by Time magazine, who called Bob "overly cutesy" and an "operating system designed around Clippy". Microsoft's Steve Ballmer mentioned Bob as an example of a situation in which "we decided that we have not succeeded and let's stop".
Microsoft employee Raymond Chen wrote in an article that an encrypted copy of Bob was included on Windows XP install CDs to take up space and slow down the downloading of illegal copies. Tech journalist Harry McCracken called the story "a delightfully urban legend-y tale" and noted its similarities to an April Fools' Day joke claiming Bob was hidden in Windows Vista.
Rover, the software's dog mascot, reappeared in XP's File Search function.
At Ease was an alternative to the Macintosh desktop developed by Apple Computer in the early 1990s for the classic Mac OS. It provided a simple environment for new Macintosh users and young children to help them to work without supervision. At Ease sits on top of the Finder desktop, providing a simple tabbed panel-oriented graphical user interface in which applications and documents are represented by icons on large buttons. Aside from its security features, its interface and basic functionality is very similar to the Packard Bell Navigator.Bing Vision
Bing Vision is an image recognition application created by Microsoft which is installed on Windows Phones running version 7.5 and above, including Windows Phone 8. It is a part of the Bing Mobile suite of services, and on most devices can be accessed using the search button. On Windows Phone 8.1 devices where Microsoft Cortana is available, it is only available through the lenses of the Camera app (as the search button now activates Cortana). Bing Vision can scan barcodes, QR codes, Microsoft Tags, books, CDs, and DVDs. Books, CDs, and DVDs are offered through Bing Shopping.Creative Writer
Creative Writer is a word processor released by Microsoft Kids in 1993. Using this program, which is specifically targeted at children, it is possible to create documents such as letters, posters, flyers and stories complete with different fonts, Clip art, WordArt and effects. The interface and environment is especially targeted towards children and is set in Imaginopolis with the main helper being a character known as McZee. A sequel, Creative Writer 2, was released in 1996. Both are now discontinued, but can still be acquired from online stores and auction websites such as eBay.
The original Creative Writer was announced by Microsoft on 7 December 1993 and was released in 1994. It ran on both MS-DOS 3.2 and the
Windows 3.1 operating system. A version was also released for the Apple Macintosh, compatible with computers running the classic Mac OS from the System 6 version up to Mac OS 9.
The program took place in the fictional place of Imaginopolis and had several levels of a building each with a different topic (e.g. one for plain writing, one for story templates, one for poster templates). The design of the program was very similar to that of its sister program Fine Artist. The program runs full screen and creates an all inclusive environment. The interface was similar to a later product called Microsoft Bob.
Creative Writer featured many of the features found on Microsoft's Word for Windows product, including the WordArt feature used to create titles and headlines and the ability to add clip art. Creative Writer also used sounds heavily where each tool would make a different noise. Examples of this include a vacuum cleaner suction to delete and an explosion to denote deleting everything from a page.GeoSafari
Geosafari is an educational toy company that markets technological educational toys, including the Geosafari Globe and the Phonics Lab. It has been in existence since 1962.The GeoSafari was an educational toy released in 1987 by the National Geographic Society, and later the Educational Insights company. It originally cost $99.95. The system used two-sided, laminated cards that fit into the front of the machine. The center of the card had numbered elements that were the answers, and the sides of the card had a list of questions or prompts. The device would turn on a light next to a random question, and the user would type in the number of the answer element. After all the questions were answered, it would present a score. Card topics included history, geography, math, astronomy, zoology, anatomy, geology, science, foreign languages, reading, and various others. Several versions were released through the 1990s, but Educational Insights no longer produces the GeoSafari.List of Microsoft software
Microsoft Corporation is a leading developer of PC software. It is best known for its Windows operating system, the Microsoft Office family of productivity software plus services, and the Visual Studio IDE. The company also publishes books (through Microsoft Press) and video games (through Microsoft Studios), and produces its own line of hardware. The following is a list of the notable Microsoft software applications.List of alternative shells for Windows
This is a list of software that provides an alternative graphical user interface for Microsoft Windows operating systems. The technical term for this interface is a shell. Windows' standard user interface is the Windows shell; Windows 3.0 and Windows 3.1x have a different shell, called Program Manager. The programs in this list do not restyle the Windows shell, but replace it; therefore, they look and function differently, and have different configuration options.Magic Cap
Magic Cap (short for Magic Communicating Applications Platform) is a discontinued object-oriented operating system for PDAs developed by General Magic. Tony Fadell was a contributor to the platform, while Darin Adler was an architect.Magic Cap incorporates a room metaphor, where the user navigates from room to room to perform various tasks, such as going to a home office to perform word processing, or to a file room to clean up the system files. Automation is based on mobile agents but not an office assistant.
Several electronic companies came to market with Magic Cap devices. The most notable are the Sony Magic Link and the Motorola Envoy, both released in 1994. None of these devices were commercial successes.Melinda Gates
Melinda Ann Gates DBE (born August 15, 1964) is an American philanthropist and a former general manager at Microsoft. In 2000, she co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill Gates, the world's largest private charitable organization. Gates has consistently been ranked as one of the world's most powerful women by Forbes.Microsoft Agent
Microsoft Agent was a technology developed by Microsoft which employed animated characters, text-to-speech engines, and speech recognition software to enhance interaction with computer users. Thus it was an example of an embodied agent. It came preinstalled as part of Windows 98 through Windows Vista. It was not included with Windows 7 but can be downloaded from Microsoft. It was completely discontinued in Windows 8. Microsoft Agent functionality was exposed as an ActiveX control that can be used by web pages.
The theory behind this software came from work on social interfaces by Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves at Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information.Microsoft Home
Microsoft Home was a line of software applications and personal hardware products published by Microsoft. Microsoft Home software titles first appeared in the middle of 1993. These applications were designed to bring multimedia to Microsoft Windows and Macintosh personal computers. With more than 60 products available under the Microsoft Home brand by 1994, the company's push into the consumer market took off. Microsoft Plus!, an add-on enhancement package for Windows, continued until the Windows XP era. The range of home software catered for many different consumer interests from gaming with Microsoft Arcade and Entertainment Packs to reference titles such as Microsoft Encarta, Bookshelf and Cinemania. Shortly after the release of Microsoft Windows 95, the company began to reduce the price of Microsoft Home products and by the rise of the World Wide Web by 1998, Microsoft began to phase out the line of software.Office Assistant
The Office Assistant was an intelligent user interface for Microsoft Office that assisted users by way of an interactive animated character, which interfaced with the Office help content. It was included in Microsoft Office for Windows (versions 97 to 2003), in Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Project (versions 98 to 2003), and Microsoft Office for Mac (versions 98 to 2004).
The default assistant in the English Windows version was named Clippit (commonly nicknamed Clippy), after a paperclip. The character was designed by Kevan J. Atteberry on a Macintosh computer. Clippit was the default and by far the most notable Assistant (partly because in many cases the setup CD was required to install the other assistants), which also led to it being called simply the Microsoft Paperclip. The original Clippit in Office 97 was given a new look in Office 2000.
The feature drew a strongly negative response from many users. Microsoft turned off the feature by default in Office XP, acknowledging its unpopularity in an ad campaign spoofing Clippy. The feature was removed altogether in Office 2007 and Office 2008 for Mac, as it continued to draw criticism even from Microsoft employees.
The default assistant Clippit has been heavily mocked in popular culture, being parodied, appearing in memes, and even being made fun of by Microsoft themselves from 2001 onwards.Orphaned technology
Orphaned technology is a descriptive term for computer products, programs, and platforms that have been abandoned by their original developers. Orphaned technology refers to software, such as abandonware and antique software, but also to computer hardware and practices. In computer software standards and documentation, deprecation is the gradual phasing-out of a software or programming language feature, while orphaning usually connotes a sudden discontinuation, usually for business-related reasons, of a product with an active user base.
For users of technologies that have been withdrawn from the market, there is a choice between maintaining their software support environments in some form of emulation, or switching to other supported products, possibly losing capabilities unique to their original solution.
Some well-known examples of orphaned technology include:
Coleco ADAM - 8-bit home computer
TI 99/4A - 16-bit home computer
Apple Lisa - 16/32-bit graphical computer
Newton PDA (Apple Newton) - tablet computer
DEC Alpha - 64-bit microprocessor
HyperCard - hypermedia
ICAD (KBE) - knowledge-based engineering
Javelin Software - modeling and data analysis
LISP machines - LISP oriented computers
Classic Mac OS - m68k and PowerPC operating system
Microsoft Bob - graphical helper
Windows 9x - x86 operating system
OpenDoc - compound documents (Mac OS, OS/2)
Prograph - visual programming system
Poly-1 - parallel networked computer designed in New Zealand for use in education and training
Mosaic notation program - music notation application by Mark of the Unicorn
Open Music System - GibsonSymbolics Inc's operating systems, Genera and OpenGenera, were twice orphaned, as they were ported from LISP machines to computers using the Alpha 64-bit CPU.User groups often exist for specific orphaned technologies, such as The Hong Kong Newton User Group, Symbolics Lisp [Machines] Users' Group (now known as the Association of Lisp Users), and Newton Reference. The Save Sibelius group sprang into existence because Sibelius (scorewriter) users feared the application would be orphaned after its owners Avid Tech fired most of the development team, who were thereafter hired by Steinberg to develop the competing product, Dorico.Packard Bell Navigator
Packard Bell Navigator is an alternative shell for the Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 operating systems that shipped with Packard Bell computers. The shell was designed to be simpler to use for computer novices by representing applications as objects in a virtual home, similar to Microsoft Bob and At Ease. The software was originally developed by a company called Ark Interface, which was acquired by Packard Bell in 1994.Satya Nadella
Satya Narayana Nadella (; born 19 August 1967) is an Indian American business executive. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft, succeeding Steve Ballmer in 2014. Before becoming chief executive, he was Executive Vice President of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, responsible for building and running the company's computing platforms.Surface Studio
The Surface Studio is an all-in-one PC, designed and produced by Microsoft as part of its Surface series of Windows-based personal computing devices. It was announced at the Windows 10 Devices Event on October 26, 2016, with pre-orders beginning that day.The first desktop computer to be manufactured entirely by Microsoft, the Surface Studio uses the Windows 10 operating system with the Anniversary Update preinstalled. However, it is optimized for the Windows 10 Creators Update, which was released on April 11, 2017. The product, starting at $2,999, is aimed primarily at people in creative professions such as graphic artists and designers.Ted Alspach
Ted Alspach is a board-game designer and the author of more than 30 books on graphics, publishing and the web. He is best known as the designer of the boardgames Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Suburbia, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Ultimate Werewolf, and Werewords. As a writer, he is best known for his Adobe Illustrator-related books, including Illustrator for Dummies and the best-selling Illustrator Bible series. Other books he has written include Photoshop Complete, Microsoft Bob, Internet E-mail Quick Tour, Acrobat Visual Quickstart Guide, and PageMaker Visual Quickstart Guide. Ted was employed by Adobe Systems as the group product manager for Adobe Illustrator and the Creative Suite from 1999-2006, overseeing the release of Illustrator 9, 10, CS, CS2, and Creative Suite CS and CS2.
He is the author of a patent for vector-based flares, written while he was at Adobe.
He, along with his wife Toni Alspach, run Bezier Games, Inc., which publishes titles from Ted Alspach as well as other designers, including Tom Lehmann, Freidemann Friese, Scott Caputo, and Rob Daviau.Vincent Connare
Vincent Connare (born 26 September 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a British-American type designer and former Microsoft employee. Among his creations are the Comic Sans font, and the Trebuchet MS font. Besides text typefaces, he finalized and hinted the font Marlett which has been used for scalable User Interface icons in Microsoft Windows since 1995 and created portions of the font Webdings that was first shipped with Internet Explorer.WinG
In computing, WinG (pronounced Win Gee) is an application programming interface that was designed to provide faster graphics performance on Windows 3.x operating environments, and was initially positioned as a way to help game developers more easily port their DOS games to Microsoft Windows, although it was quickly discontinued in favor of DirectX.