Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Office 2007 UI Licensing Bull

I just upgraded to the Infragistics 2007 Volume 1 release which includes support for a ribbon based user interface. It was annoying to come across this dialog during the installation:


I consider myself a pragmatist and don’t think Microsoft is the evil empire or anything, but… when they pull this sort of thing, it peeves me off. The implication is that software developers need to request for the right to create a user interface that is similar to the Office 2007 ribbon user interface – not the same, just similar. In my opinion, the ribbon UI is a great improvement on previous Office user interfaces with respect to browsing through commands but its not revolutionary. Breaking it down, its just a bunch of tabbed command windows each with a controls grouped together in associated panels. Tabbed windows have existed for ages in windowing systems. So have panels, icons, buttons etc. Given this I don’t think Microsoft have any IP ownership of this style of UI except for the very specific layout/graphics used in MS Word, Excel etc. Now the question for me is if I use the Infragistics ribbon implementation, do I have to ask permission of Microsoft? Do I ignore this unreasonable request and if so is there a risk of being bullied by Microsoft’s legal machine. All in all, it sucks.