Microsoft Bob

Microsoft Bob
Microsoft Bob
The logo of Microsoft Bob.
Developer(s) Microsoft
Stable release 1.00a / August 30, 1995; 16 years ago (1995-08-30)[1]
Development status Discontinued
Operating system Windows 3.1x
Type GUI
License Proprietary

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".[2]



Microsoft Bob was designed for Windows 3.1x, 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).[3] 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.[4] Microsoft originally owned the domain name, but traded it to Bob Kerstein for the domain name.[5]


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 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.

Released right as the internet was beginning to become popular, Bob offered an email client where 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.[6]

Bob features "Assistants": cartoon characters which can help the user navigate the virtual house or perform tasks in the main interface or within the built-in applications.

Bob in encrypted form was added to the Windows XP install CDs to take up space.[7]

Gateway 2000 Edition

An edition of Microsoft Bob was bundled with Gateway 2000 around 1995, the version bundled with Gateway computers contained Gateway branding on the Login screen. Also the Gateway Edition contained 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.

Negative awards

Despite being discontinued before Windows 98 was released, Microsoft Bob continued to be severely criticized in reviews and popular media.[8]

Bob received the 7th place in PC World magazine's list of the 25 worst tech products of all time,[9] a spot in Time magazine's list of the 50 Worst Inventions[10] and number one worst product of the decade by[11]

See also


  1. ^ Microsoft Bob 1.0a 8/30/1995, Personal or Home Finances, Obsolete Products, Microsoft Support
  2. ^ Cowley, Stacy (2006-07-31). "Ballmer Analyzes Microsoft's 'One Big' Vista Mistake". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.;jsessionid=ZEQ0I0LMYJC1MQSNDLPCKHSCJUNN2JVN?articleId=191600739. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  3. ^ Newman, Michael (1999-05-23). "Bob is dead; long live Bob". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  4. ^ McCracken, Harry (March 31, 2010). "The Bob Chronicles". PCWorld Magazine. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  5. ^ Lea, Graham (1999-11-11). " owner sells domain to Microsoft". The Register. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  6. ^ McCracken, Harry. "A Guided Tour of Microsoft Bob". Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Chen, Raymond (July 2008). "Windows Confidential: History Taking Up Space". TechNet Magazine. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  8. ^ Dvorak, John C. (2004-08-16). "The Bottom 10: Worst Software Disasters". PC World.,1759,1636333,00.asp. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  9. ^ Tynan, Dan (2006-03-26). "The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time". PC World.,125772-page,3-c,techindustrytrends/article.html. Retrieved 2007-03-14. 
  10. ^ "The 50 Worst Inventions". Time. 2010-05-27.,28804,1991915_1991909_1991855,00.html. 
  11. ^ Merritt, Tom (2007-04-30). "CNET Top 5: Worst products in a decade". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 

External links

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