When we have the so-called "Boss Loves Microsoft" conversation, one of the reasons often given for user preference for Outlook is that "it works like other Microsoft software" and thus "it's easier for our users" and "we won't have to do training".

In my experience, none of these supposed-truisms are actually true, but that never seems to get in the way of the story.  I've never seen a study that validates or proves the notion that users are more productive in an all-Microsoft environment.  Every time the subject of the dreaded F5 vs. F9 function keys in Notes comes up, someone quickly points out that even within Microsoft Office, these keys have different meanings from application to application.

From everything I've seen and read about Vista and Office 2007, Microsoft is about to take steps that ensure that this truism becomes one of the bigger red-herrings in software.  Both the Vista RC1 and the latest Office 2007 beta feature a number of inconsistencies from app to app, which gets especially interesting when using, for example, Word as the editor within Outlook (ribbon? no ribbon? etc.).  Paul Thurrott's latest says that one fo the things he doesn't like about Vista as it now stands is "a stupid UI":

what's up with the glaringly inconsistent UI across Windows Vista and all of its applications? Some windows have menus, some don't, and some have hidden menus. Some have these new black toolbars, some don't. And so on. Why isn't there a team of people just working on consistency issues?
Later in the article, he notes that (emphasis mine):
But the devil is in the details, as they say, and Microsoft has never been very good at consistency and that final bit of polish that separates something competent from something wonderful.
What's that?  Never been good at consistency?  But that's not what the boss thinks!

I've often described this as the "halo effect" that Microsoft gets from branding.  They're certainly doing a good job of extending the Office brand to mean all things to all people.  I wonder, though, if the 34 products in Office 2007 are starting to look like the "bucket of bolts" that has often been used by Microsoft to describe certain competitor's offerings...

Link: Paul Thurrott/WindowsITPro: The Dark Side of Windows Vista RC1 >

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