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Bill Gates: Microsoft Bob to Make a Return (in Concept)

By - Source: CNET | B 16 comments

Don't worry, the talking dog isn't coming back to your screen.

Remember Microsoft Bob? No? It was software released in March 1995 that provided a new, non-technical interface for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, and used in place of the Program Manager. It featured a 2D representation of a house, giving users full control over decorating each room. Objects could be assigned to programs, allowing users to click a clock to open the Windows Calendar, and so on. Bob also had talking assistants which helped users navigate their virtual house.

The last stable release was on August 30, 1995. Now in July 2013, Bill Gates is hinting that Bob, or at least the concept behind the failed project, will come back to life as intelligent personal agents become a part of everyday computing. He revealed this Bob-infested future on Monday at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit held at the company's Redmond headquarters, acknowledging that the company didn't get the Bob idea right, but the concept will reemerge with a bit more sophistication.

"A long time ago we tried a little personality that was definitely premature," he said (via GeekWire). "I think it will re-emerge, but perhaps with a bit more sophistication. We were just ahead of our time, like most of our mistakes."

Despite the software's discontinuation, the assistant aspect lived on past the virtual house in the form of Clippy, the animated assistant in the shape of a paperclip. It was included in Microsoft Office for Windows versions 97 to 2003 and in Microsoft Publisher, it was included in versions 98 to 2003. Additional assistants were also offered including a hoverbot, a smiley-faced red ball and more. Microsoft Agent was also provided for non-Office users in 2000 featuring a parrot and three other animated characters.

Gates reassured Summit attendees that Microsoft Bob won't come back as an animated dog living in a virtual house, but instead as a disembodied voice from the cloud like Apple's Siri or Google Now. It will be wrapped in the Windows 8 tiled interface and understand everything that the user does, anticipate the user's needs and present relative information " anytime, anywhere, and on any device".

"I think we will be more connected and therefore if somebody wants to do a task like find a gift of a certain type, organize a trip in a certain way, there will be a closer match — that is, the gap between what the software can do for them and what most people end up doing, that could be reduced," Gates said.

For a history of Microsoft Bob, check out this article here. A guided tour in slideshow form can be seen here.

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  • 4 Hide
    dameon51 , July 16, 2013 1:05 PM
    I actually used Clippy quite a bit. He accessed the help docs in Office and when you're doing stuff in Excel and Access and just need to pull up function parameters it was a fast and easy way to do it.
  • 2 Hide
    CaedenV , July 16, 2013 1:07 PM
    favorite office assistant ever was a Red vs Blue Sarge mod for office. It would have ignorant comments to say while you were working, and it would yell at you if you stopped for any length of time. I would love for other similar virtual assistants to make a comeback... but maybe with them actually being useful from time to time.
  • 3 Hide
    jhansonxi , July 16, 2013 1:09 PM
    Bob was one of the last projects Melinda Gates was involved with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob
  • Display all 16 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    dameon51 , July 16, 2013 1:09 PM
    I actually used Clippy quite a bit. He accessed the help docs in Office and when you're doing stuff in Excel and Access and just need to pull up function parameters it was a fast and easy way to do it.
  • 0 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , July 16, 2013 1:13 PM
    this is starting to remind me of HAL 9000 in the 2001 A Space Odyssey movie.
  • 7 Hide
    balister , July 16, 2013 1:42 PM
    My god, they're finally admitting to Bob?! Years ago when I worked as an outsource partner for Microsoft, for a short time we had access to a server in Redmond called Big Bertha which contained every single product Microsoft had produced to that point (up to '97) with the exception of one item, Bob. It was not among the products listed even though there was things like DOS 4 (for those that don't know, DOS 4 only saw the light of day for about 2 weeks before it was replaced by DOS 5).

    Whenever we asked people at Microsof that worked in the OS side of things about various OSes, whenever we brought up Bob they would act coy and deny knownledge of it.

    So, color me shocked that Bill is admitting to the existance of Bob now after Microsoft tried so hard to sweep Bob under the rug.
  • -2 Hide
    drbaltazar , July 16, 2013 2:45 PM
    Hahaha !bcdedit /set ??????(we all say latest tsc version!

    Bill(in old days called Bob)says:this setting is not recommended please wait while I revert those setting!ya I am sure everybody will love bill.fix it is a step in the right direction .sadly most normal user are ahead of fix it by a few genof window.only relevant Intel is from their server side or powershell sadly those are rarely full made command ..again something that is like : OK now first you press start to put computer on.press again to shut it off etc etc etc.if at least they used site like speed guide.net or old kadaitcha.CX to give ms idea gees
  • 2 Hide
    nevilence , July 16, 2013 2:59 PM
    Quote:
    favorite office assistant ever was a Red vs Blue Sarge mod for office. It would have ignorant comments to say while you were working, and it would yell at you if you stopped for any length of time. I would love for other similar virtual assistants to make a comeback... but maybe with them actually being useful from time to time.


    God I would love for that to return, forget usefullness, I just want sarge or even caboose saying stupid things to me while I work. Or even Tex, "you cock biting fucktards" bwahahaha love it
  • -1 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 16, 2013 4:23 PM
    Oh dear god
  • 2 Hide
    supr , July 16, 2013 10:28 PM
    i liked the talking dog more then the current search
  • 0 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , July 16, 2013 10:59 PM
    As long as it does not mess with my groove like that dog did then I have no problem with it.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , July 16, 2013 11:35 PM
    Bit off topic, but maybe Bob could sort me an answer for it - I upgraded Win 7 to Win 8 back in November and the install was around around 21Gb and that included switching off the Hiber file and the swap file (12gig of ram, who needs it) so last night I decided to do a fresh install instead of the upgrade, to prepare for the 8.1, so after removing the Hiber file and swap file I topped out the install at 8.4Gb - I wonder if Bob could advise me why I have such a small OS footprint?
  • 1 Hide
    jabliese , July 17, 2013 6:55 AM
    Bill must really, really not like Win 8 being compared to New Coke. Or, he is just reminding us what happens when Microsoft tries to innovate.
  • 0 Hide
    hythos , July 17, 2013 7:57 AM
    I just sold one my 1995 MS BOB t-shirt to a hipster in Los Angeles for $200; I still have one more =)
  • 0 Hide
    hannibal , July 17, 2013 2:49 PM
    So the Windows9 will/could be based on Bob... That would be interesting!
    :D 
  • 0 Hide
    robotsneedhugs2 , July 19, 2013 7:32 AM
    I will never forgive Bob for introducing Comic Sans.