Microsoft is by no means shy of keeping a close eye on the users of its software products. It is the case of Windows Vista, and also of Office 2008 for Mac. Microsoft is essentially collecting a variety of data on the way the end users interact with Office 2008 for Mac, but only with the explicit consent of the user. "Office 2008 is out in the field, and we're carefully watching the early data. Yes, that's right, we're watching what you're doing," stated Nadyne Mielke, user experience researcher in the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft.
In this manner, the Redmond company has direct access to automated feedback from Office 2008 in real life
scenarios. A test environment, however diversified, will never be able to simulate accurately the real-world. Microsoft will look at the incoming data and identify patterns of usage across users, and then adapt the software in order to become tailored to its specific users.
"'WHAT?!' I can hear the cries echoing 'round the world. When you install Office 2008, one of the last screens during the installation process asks whether you'd like to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). (The name leaves something to be desired!) If you opt in, anonymous non-traceable data about how you use Office is occasionally uploaded to us in the background. And if you're wondering what happens to that data, well, I'm looking at it right now," Mielke continued.
Apparently, from the previous Office CEIP data, Microsoft learned that the most used command in Word, Excel and PowerPoint is Paste. So, if you thought that spying on your Office 2008 behavior was some sort of ploy that would ultimately lead to world domination that is obviously not the case. For Microsoft, it is a simple way to ensure that future products give end users a run for their money. After all, it's all about user experience.
"What do we do with the data we collect through the CEIP? It helps us shape our future work. If we learn through this data that a particular feature isn't used very frequently, we have to find out why. It could be that the feature isn't discoverable (that is, you want to use the feature, but you can't figure out where it is or how to use it), or it could be that the feature isn't as useful as it once was. If we learn that people tend to use a given sequence of commands, then we have to figure out what action they're trying to perform and whether there's any way that we can streamline it. This data is hugely useful to us as we start our work on the next version of Office," Mielke stated.
Microsoft, Office 2008, Mac OS X, Apple