Sunday, December 02, 2007

[New York Bureau:] Microsoft adds insult to injury and then another injury

I recently spent a lot of money on a new laptop, which runs Microsoft Vista, which I hate. Microsoft gave me 20 tries of Microsoft Vista Word, which I tried to hoard by never shutting my computer down, but yesterday I ran out. I couldn't even copy the text from angry frozen Vista into another program to work on it. I could only view it and - I suppose - copy it over by hand. So the ever so kind Urban Caballero picked me up a new copy of Microsoft Vista word, which WE COULD NOT OPEN.

It comes in a box like this.

Nobody knows how to open this box. As one guy writes:

I bought a retail copy of Office 2007 today (I'm loading up the new laptop I got for the world tour, which is a Thinkpad X61s), and I must be a complete spaz, but I simply could not figure out how to open the bizarre new packaging.

It's a hard plastic case, sealed in two different places by plastic stickies. It represents a complete failure of industrial design; an utter F in the school of Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things. To be technical about it, it has no true affordances and actually has some false affordances: visual clues as to how to open it that turn out to be wrong.

This is the same box that Vista comes in. Nick White over at Microsoft seems proud of the novel design, but from the comments on the web it seems I'm not the only one who couldn't figure out how to open it. It seems like even rudimentary usability testing would have revealed the problem. A box that many people can't figure out how to open without a Google search is an unusually pathetic failure of design. As the line goes from Billy Madison: "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

The Urban Caballero and I actually had to search the internet for information about how to open the Microsoft Word box. Sad, no? Then we had to attack it with dangerous sharp objects.

This person created a Flickr photo series explaining how to open the box.

Some comments on Microsoft Vista's own blog:

Pretty packaging; but how do I open it (other than a hammer)? I obviously need to break off some hard plastic pieces, but I can't tell which. Is it the little ones or the right side at the top? How do I take out the plastic screw at the bottom?

Please just give us functional square shrink wrapped boxes next time. AFter I crack into this hard plastic one I have to through the hard plastic away.

Nice package but it's a real mystery to open. The directions by "Sidebar Geek" are misleading. It turns out there are TWO seals, and one is very thick as well as totally transparent - prevents the "pulley" from opening the box at all, even with GREAT effort. Needed knife and reading glasses to find where to cut it! This is dangerous! Yes, there should be a sticker showing where to cut. I got my box at Costco today...

Hello everyone: I was in a hurry to install Office 2007 on a friend's computer and ended up breaking the box with a hammer, being careful not to damage the disks. For my own I almost stabbed myself with the knife trying to cut the seals. Some instructions would have been useful, rather tha all the horse$%*& about licensing legalese. Way to go Microsoft!!

Leave it to Microsoft to ship bug ridden, virus inviting, computing experience numbing software in a box that no-one can open without instructions. Why don't you guys just give up and go home. You have completely ruined computing for so many people.

It took me and my wife 15 mins to open this dam box with a hammer. WTF?


At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Ethan said...

Not to rub it in, but I downloaded Debian Etch and do all of my updates online. Free. No viruses. No packaging to wrestle with. Not the perfect solution for everyone, but sure beats the inevitable flood of "Mac Mac Mac!" comments that are sure to follow this one. ;-)

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

Yeah, yeah, I know about you guys. When it comes down to it, I'd rather spend the money than worry endlessly about that kind of software's compatibility issues, learn the features of a new program, switch everything over to something that's not guaranteed to exist in 5 years, etc. But I'm still furious about it!

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband says that you can still purchase customize-built PCs through Dell and get Windows XP as your operating sysyem. He's buying a new Dell XPS210 and plans to do this rather than dealing with the new stuff. He was interested in reading your comments which further convinced him not to go with the new Vista sysyem. Thanks for the heads up.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger sister AE said...

I have opened more software packages in the course of my job that most people see in a lifetime.

I couldn't figure this one out. Being a manager, I finally asked one of my staff to open it for me.

Is someone at Microsoft trying to tell us "abandon hope, all ye who attempt to enter here?"


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