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  Does Microsoft Think Users Are Dumb?
Time: 04:20 EST/09:20 GMT | News Source: ZDNet | Posted By: Viper

The news that Microsoft's Office Assistant system will be turned off by default in the forthcoming Office XP is welcome, of course. The annoying animations that seemed to interrupt just about every task you tried to do, and question your ability to do them properly, will soon be a thing of the past. Microsoft is even using the most annoying Assistant -- the hated paperclip -- in its Office XP marketing strategy.But the company's reason for making this change is not that so many users complained, although they did. Nor is it simple good taste and an acknowledgement that it had got the concept badly wrong from the start. Instead, Microsoft claims that Office XP is so much easier to use than its predecessors that even the dimmest of us won't need the sort of help that the paperclip and its chums provided. This is always possible, of course. The new 'smart tags' and 'task panes' are sure to have been through extensive usability testing, and users with various skill levels and experience will have been observed through the one-way mirror attempting to perform different tasks with the new user interface. That's as may be, and users might indeed find the new interface less irritating and easier to use. One possible reason for software companies doing this sort of thing--and it's not just Microsoft, but all of them--is that they think users are stupid and don't really know what they're doing.

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