Microsoft Bob was a Microsoft software product, released in March 1995, which provided a new, nontechnical interface to desktop computing operations. It was one of Microsoft's more visible product failures. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer 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 Windows 95, and intended to be a user-friendly interface for Microsoft Windows, supplanting the Program Manager. At one point, the project was managed by Melinda French, who at the time was Bill Gates' 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 and Byron Reeves of Stanford University. Microsoft originally owned the domain name bob.com, but 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.
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.
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