Microsoft Eases Manual Labor

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-10-08

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.

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