Microsoft and Facebook’s next big thing looks a lot like a famous ’90s Microsoft flop – Business Insider
Here’s something funny, though. This next big thing looks a lot
like Microsoft Bob, an operating system from 1995 that’s also
considered one of the biggest tech flops of all time.
Don’t believe me? Okay. Here’s Microsoft Bob:
The idea behind Microsoft Bob was simple: Windows was too
technical for mainstream users to understand, so Microsoft
experimented with a simpler, more intuitive interface. At one
point, Bob was headed up by no less than Melinda French —
the Microsoft manager who would go on to marry Bill Gates.
“So our big idea with Microsoft Bob was to turn your
desktop into something everyone understood: a house. To write,
you clicked on a pen and paper; to check the date, you clicked
the calendar on the wall — that type of thing,” as Melinda Gates
described the project in a
recent LinkedIn post.
Keep that in mind as you watch this video showing Facebook’s
revamped Oculus Home, the interface for its Oculus virtual
reality headsets, which will be released in beta this December:
And here’s the Microsoft Mixed Reality Cliff House, which is how
you’ll access different programs in
Mixed Reality on Windows 10 when a big update drops on
So maybe the notion of having a house as the computer interface
was just ahead of its time. Maybe you just needed to strap a
headset on to feel like you were actually in the house, first.
Either way, it was too late to save Microsoft Bob. The reviews
were brutal, with most reviewers decrying it as too simplistic to
get anything done. And many users found that the cartoon animals
that acted as Bob’s help system were too cloying and annoying.
After about a year on the market, Bob was quietly
“Our failures tend to result from markets being too small,” joked
Bill Gates in a 1997 newspaper column. “Unfortunately, the
[Microsoft Bob] software demanded more performance than typical
computer hardware could deliver at the time and there wasn’t an
adequately large market. Bob died.”
But apart from the union of Bill and Melinda Gates, Bob had
a few other lasting effects: Bob’s cast of cartoon characters
would evolve into
Clippy, the reviled help assistant in old versions of
Microsoft Office. Bob was also responsible for the creation of
Comic Sans, now considered one of the world’s most hated
“So you’re welcome for that,” writes Melinda Gates in her
2017 LinkedIn post.
You can read Gates’ full post on Bob, and the lessons
learned from its failure,
over at LinkedIn. In the meantime, hey, what’s old is new