I’ve been wondering how this would work out: Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog : Licensing the 2007 Microsoft Office User Interface.

Microsoft has indeed invested lots of time and effort in creating new and – brace yourself – innovative user-interface design concepts. All you have to do is sit through some design meetings, specification reviews, use the early versions and see them evolve to ship quality to appreciate the person-years it goes into just creating new features and their associated interfaces.

In the back of my mind has always been, “How long until someone rips this off?” and benefits from the R&D-NW.

So, personally, I’m grateful to see this qualification in licensing the 2007 Microsoft Office User Interface:

There’s only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can’t obtain the royalty-free license.

Why this exclusion?

Microsoft spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the research, design, and development of the new Office user interface.

We’re allowing developers to license this intellectual property and take advantage of these advances in user interface design without any fee whatsoever.

But we want to preserve the innovation for Microsoft’s productivity applications that are already using the new UI.

Excellent. A wonderful compromise to share lots and lots of hardwork and design and yet protect our assets. It’s bulging with common sense.