In what is a bit of an unfortunate decision, Microsoft has announced it is modifying the way the Ribbon in Office 2007 performs, giving into complaints from users that the Ribbon was taking up too much screen space. This despite the fact that while the perception of the Ribbon is that it is larger, due to the large, graphic buttons, it is in fact 5-8 pixels smaller than the Office 2000/2003 menus! Yes, despite looking bigger, the Ribbon is actually smaller, but testers complained so much about their perceptions, and Microsoft failed to properly explain the difference, so now the user interface has to suffer.
Now, the articles seem to indicate that this will be mostly optional, that you can probably just use the Ribbon as intended, but I’m worried about Microsoft making too many concessions to less open-minded Office users. The Ribbon, like the Start Menu, is a major change in UI design, but one that will benefit everyone once they learn how to use it. People complained about the Start Menu when Windows 95 came out, and they eventually came around, and the same thing will happen with the Ribbon.
UPDATE: TDavid asked me to trackback him on this, so here goes. Check out his thoughts on this story.