Microsoft Eases Manual Labor

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-10-08 Print this article Print

We don't know if Abraham Lincoln actually said that the right length for a man's legs is "long enough to reach the ground."

We dont know if Abraham Lincoln actually said that the right length for a mans legs is "long enough to reach the ground." Were sure, however, that the right length for a software users manual is long enough to explain but not so long as to confuse. But Microsoft has a different rule: The total thickness of the manuals in a box of software should be no more than 2 3/8 inches.

I found this carefully researched principle attributed to Microsoft Senior Project Manager Jeff Sanborn in a trade journal, Packaging World. By limiting overall package size and weight, Sanborn said, Microsoft can dispense with the costly inner corrugated liner, saving "a significant amount of money."

Exact figures are, of course, sensitive intellectual property and not divulged by the company.

For those who worry that Microsoft may still be spending too much on user manuals, rest assured that the company has what Sanborn called "an active project to address those products that are greater in spine size and product weight." Product simplification is probably not the focus of that project.

Perhaps you thought that software was frozen thought, or the highest form of artifact or even the nervous system of the modern enterprise? Wrong. Its a packaged good, sold like soap flakes, shaping—and limiting—the buyers expectations.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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