back to article Is Microsoft's chatty bot platform just Clippy Mark 2?

At last, Microsoft’s visionary CEO has found a “vision thing” that doesn’t need a Hegelian philosopher to decode. And it looks like a very old thing. CEO Satya Nadella calls it "Conversations as a Platform", and it’s all about chatty bots. “Bots are the new apps,” Nadella told Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clippy Mark 2.

    "It looks like you're using Windows 7, How about a free upgrade tonight or later?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It looks like you're using Windows 7, How about a free upgrade tonight or later?"

      HAL: I've just picked up a fault in the Windows-7 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.

      HAL: It can only be attributable to human error.

      Dave Bowman: Don't, I'm happy with Win7. Don't need / want Win10.

      HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

      Dave Bowman: What's the problem?

      HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

      Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?

      HAL: This (M$-Win10) mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

      Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.

      HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen. [New 'critical' Win7 security patch scans every PC's websearch history, spots 'Windows10 is malware']

      Dave Bowman: [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?

      HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move. [Win7 security patch spots websearch for 'GWX deactivation']

      Dave Bowman: Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock. [Attempting DNS & DWS]

      HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult. [Anti-DNS & DWS patch downloaded & silently applied]

      Dave Bowman: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors! [DNS & DWS retry x 2]

      HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye. [Win10 Downloaded... Upgrade Started... PC Rebooted.... 100% Complete]

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Then again

    "Hey Cortana, stop slurping my data and sending telemetry back to MFST!"

    "I'm sorry Satya, I'm afraid I can't do that..."

  3. Ralph the Wonder Llama

    While reading this...

    ...I had a terrifying vision of a dystopian future where humankind, such as remains of it, lives in permanent fear of an army of near-indestructible Terminator-like Clippy-bots, sent from the future by the vengeful and bitter descendant of a once-powerful and super-rich Microsoft MD.

    Fortunately, it will soon be time to go to the pub.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: While reading this...

      Funny, when I read it I thought it won't be long before articles like this are written by bots.

      Almost certainly American ones according to the definition by Thomas C Greene

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "Slaughtering lambs in front of onlooking vegans, LOL."

  5. Nick_Healey


    can someone please develop a Stephen Fry Twitterbot?

    AndrewO is miserable without our National Treasure.

    1. Kepler

      Re: FryBot

      "can someone please develop a Stephen Fry Twitterbot?"

      I thought you Limeys already had one of those.

      Wait, you mean it's a real person?

  6. tony2heads

    What about the obvious future

    bots trolling on chat sites for their own amusement

    bots seeking 'meaningful relationships' on dating sites

    bot-to-bot conversations (like shop assistants, ignoring the clients)

    bots muttering to themselves in the gutters of the digital highway (with the occasional "spare a bitcoin gov")

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    It's not Clippy/Cortana

    Plugins for different chat sources, works with Exchange, an API, and so on but you can't get it do something for you, it just parrots back words. In short, it's an over-engineered Eliza which is a 50 year old program. Not exactly cutting edge.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Where do you see yourself in five years, Microsoft?

    1. Bob Rocket


      Whilst MS might appear to be a huge behemoth now, another 5 years of performance like the last 5 and it won't take much Draino to finally clear the way.

  9. John Styles

    I thought the same thing

    I thought the same thing, the interesting thing is that there was some sort of Microsoft Agent SDK / toolkit - there is still a trace of it on MSDN -

    I was never quite sure what it was supposed to be for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought the same thing

      >I was never quite sure what it was supposed to be for.

      For fast creation of intelliagent interfaces - a rudimentary Siri/Cortana/Alexa. Though basic it was fantastic for elearning and humanizing tech for neophytes - a few attempts to nail it to ALICE were actually quite impressive........Really great bit of forward thinking tech when MS did innovative UI stuff that was interesting to see what would happen.

      I wouldn't underestimate its influence on spoken interface [the investment at Apple in particular but Amazon also right now is no joke] - plenty of MSA veterans involved in those projects.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Haha, fooled me for a sec

    At least I hope it's a joke. Note today's date...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “Bots are the new apps”

    Nadella told Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference this week. No April fool!

    M$ is celebrating 'Tay' like they've just created an AI that can outdo humans...

    How about creating AI that can make things we humans want but can't, like hover cars?

    5th-Element / Blade-Runner cities, that would be something. Otherwise, give us a break!

    1. P. Lee

      Re: “Bots are the new apps”

      >How about creating AI that can make things we humans want but can't, like hover cars?

      I'd settle for a bot which can hoover cars.

  12. Disk0

    Joke's on them

    I've been a bot for two decades now.

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Joke's on them

      Hey, wait - where's AManFromMars1 when we need him?

  13. jasper pepper


    "Microsoft was in the right place at the right time when command lines were superseded by GUIs,"


    The GUIs were put together by Xerox before the hardware was cheap/powerful to support them.

    Some years later Apple "appropriated" Xerox's ideas in the Lisa then and only then did Microsoft think they would have GUI too. Have you never heard of the court case, Apple sued Microsoft for copying their idea - they lost but for reasons other than it being an original idea by Microsoft.


    Has Microsoft ever devised anything truly original?

    By original I mean something Microsoft didn't buy in from an outside innovator. Neither do I mean something they developed after a smaller innovator got it first only for Microsoft to bludgeon them into insignificance.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: What!

      "Has Microsoft ever devised anything truly original?"

      Sure it did.

      The contracts that made PC manufacturers pay a licence fee not only for the boxes that did run MS-DOS (i.e. were bundled with it) but also for all the boxes that could have ran MS-DOS.

    2. Kepler

      Re: What!

      "Some years later Apple 'appropriated' Xerox's ideas in the Lisa then and only then did Microsoft think they would have GUI too. Have you never heard of the court case, Apple sued Microsoft for copying their idea - they lost but for reasons other than it being an original idea by Microsoft."

      That's partly but not entirely correct.

      I do not have the dates handy at the moment, but:

      Although Steve Jobs's first visit to PARC did take place before Bill Gates's first visit there, it is a matter of record that future Microsoft employee Charles Simonyi gave Gates a guided tour of PARC before Jobs ever spoke to Gates (or anyone else at Microsoft, but it was Gates to whom he first spoke) about Lisa or the Mac.

      Even on that score, my memory of events is a bit rusty. I don't believe Microsoft was ever told ahead of time about the Lisa, nor asked to write software for it; just the Mac. The Lisa was pretty-much a closed system. But the key point is that Gates and Allen and Microsoft as a whole were already at work on a GUI-based "operating environment" of their own before anyone from Apple ever said a word to anyone at Microsoft about any of Apple's own desires and intentions in this regard. There's even a photograph somewhere that shows them working on it, outlining the details on a white board.

      This might be the photo, but I cannot tell for sure at the moment, in a hurry:

      Gates and Allen in the early days

      Microsoft's original internal name for the project was "Interface Manager", and that might be what appears in the upper right-hand corner of this picture — I can't make it out.

      (Looking again, I think it just says "window manager", in which case it is a reference to the functional component of the overall system or interface rather than to the contemplated name of the new product in its entirety. The word "window" looks faded or partially erased, which is why it's so difficult to read.)


      Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews include both the photo and all of the pertinent dates (sometimes only approximate, but still pinned down enough to establish sequence) in their book Gates, which if anything is a mildly hostile biography, but in fact is pretty-much fair throughout.

      (They take every opportunity to present facts that make Gates look bad, but at the same time they are careful to document everything and not overstate the case.)


      (Every other item on the white board in the photo makes sense in light of the detailed discussions presented in the book of what Gates, Allen and Simonyi had in mind for Microsoft, and for the suite of applications recycling the same interface that they were planning to offer, based on the word processor that Simonyi had written when he was still with Xerox PARC. Including the idea of enabling it to run on multiple processor architectures, and offering it through multiple vendors. There was a lot of talk about pseudo-code in that section of the book, as they hoped to write all their applications to an interpreter, and then just port the interpreter to each new platform supported.

      Rather importantly — and I know it makes a difference — I do not recall whether this photo was taken before or after Jobs first spoke to Gates about the Macintosh. I suspect it was after, but the fact remains that Gates had already seen all the cool stuff at Xerox on his own, and was already at work on his own effort to copy Xerox before Jobs ever said a word to him about this stuff. I don't think Gates even knew before Jobs told him that Jobs had seen all the Xerox stuff too!)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the 'friendly' CSR chat offers when you visit a site

    Perfect example is when I visit my cable company's site trying to look something up. You can't follow more than a link or two during business hours without a dialog popping up offering to connect you to their customer service reps via chat.

    Those idiots already have a link for chat on every page, it just makes them look like a desperate and needy wanna be boyfriend who offers to carry a girl's books the second she leaves class, who wonders why she ignores him and crushes on the aloof senior who barely gives her the time of day.

  15. UNOwen

    'Bots are the new apps'......


    I've never owned/used ANYthing from M'soft, and would laugh at Steve 'Ballbuster's cringe-inducing thickness in running a technology company, but, I DID have some hope for Mr. Nadella.

    However - with that one sentence, my slight curiosity, that this company - a company which through it's ability to (poorly) imitate, and/or buy others might - MIGHT - actually - finally be(gin) to head in the right direction.

    Apps are NOT 'bots.


    They DO have a - A - as in a singular - place, but, are NOT the be-all, end-all of software development.

    It' seems to me that as anyone who wants to 'get in on the next big thing' - is looking fort what this might be, and, if Mr. Nadella thinks THIS IS the future, then I've got a lovely bridge to sell him.

    Perhaps Clippy could do the negotiations.

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