OpenOffice & MS Fluent UI

It looks like the folks over at OpenOffice have put together a prototype for a new interface, which seems to be heavily based on Microsoft’s Fluent/Ribbon UI.

Whilst there’s a lot of hate out over the fact that the two interfaces are very similar, I’m curious to know what kind of analysis and research they put into the new design. It’s very hard to not sit there and wonder if they’re doing it to stay relevant as an alternative to Office 2007.

What concerns me more is that even if the team at OpenOffice are simply following Microsoft’s lead, or if it’s a happy coincidence - is that a lot of the new Office UI is covered by patents owned by Microsoft. There’s a pretty reasonable royalty-free licensing agreement for Microsoft’s Fluent UI, but OpenOffice aren’t eligible as they duplicate functionality (in fact, I daresay that clause is put in specifically to stop OpenOffice from implementing the UI).

I’d like to see some original research and development on an office application UI come out of the OpenOffice project. If they dedicated the time and resources they might be able to come up with something even better.