But I Don’t Want the Ribbon: Microsoft’s $4B Waste of Time

My employer has switched to the Office 2007 suite so I am forced to confront the ribbon, which replaces the toolbar menus with which I had been familiar with an explosion of icons. Like Kramer from Seinfeld (video below), I’m not interested in the ribbon. I don’t want the ribbon. I hate the ribbon. Yet, I’m stuck with the ribbon. Also like Kramer, I’ve been beaten into submission. I’ve been abused by Microsoft, again.



Since I cannot revert to the old look and feel I must spend time relearning how to do in Word, Excel, and other Office products what I once did quite well. How many others are wasting time relearning how to use Office software? How much in lost productivity are we paying in addition to the price of the software?

The U.S. labor force has about 155 million workers that use something on the order of 100 million PCs (not every worker uses a PC). For an order-of-magnitude estimate, let’s say they’re all using Microsoft Office. Let’s assume they all will have to convert to ribbon-based Office 2007 or a similar version. Let’s suppose each PC has only one user and that each user will spend about one hour regaining the level of productivity (s)he had with the old, pre-ribbon version of Office. That’s something like 100 million wasted person-hours. A reasonable guesstimate of an average total compensation of a U.S. office worker is perhaps $40 per hour (roughly half in wages, half in other benefits, say). So, workers might waste about $4 billion because of the Microsoft Office ribbon. (One can argue about each of these input numbers but I think any reasonable estimates will yield an order-of-magnitude figure in the single-digit billions.)

All that lost productivity and for what? Are there compensating efficiencies to be gained by using the ribbon as opposed to the old menus? I’ll let someone else make the argument but let’s just say I’m skeptical. If I find any new killer apps embedded in the new Office I’ll let you know.

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