I see that Jakob Nielsen has released the awards for the 10 Best Application UIs for 2008.
I find it interesting to see the direct relationship between the UI award winners and the Microsoft Office 2007 ribbon. While the Ribbon definitely makes sense when there is a lot of commands that must be presented to the user, it is fast becoming a standard for any application including very small featured applications such as SOTI Pocket Controller for viewing and controlling your Windows Mobile Device on your PC.
From the Nielsen article:
Several of the winners employed a ribbon as their main control, taking a lead from Microsoft Office 2007's new user interface. Considering how revolutionary it is to abandon traditional pull-down menus, having additional applications implement this idea only a year after it was introduced is very fast indeed.
For decades, we've heard enterprise users say, "just give me a UI that looks like Office." There is definitely much to be said for familiarity and for leveraging users' existing knowledge and expectations, but we've been a bit cautious about following this request for several reasons.
First, it's a basic tenet of usability that you shouldn't listen to what users say; you should watch what they do. End users are not interaction designers, so the specific dialog elements they request are usually not what's best for them.
Second, Microsoft user interfaces have not always been shining examples of good usability; the company has embraced usability in a big way only in recent years. About 10 years ago, the main design criterion was to pass a Bill Gates review, and Billg's definitely not an average user.
Third, even as Microsoft's designs improved, it wasn't a given that the Office UI would transfer to enterprise apps. After all, Office is a productivity suite consisting mainly of document editors (text editing, slide editing, spreadsheet editing). While enterprise apps have some editing, most tasks are very different than Office-style tasks.
Based on this year's winners, however, it seems that the ribbon has legs and transfers beyond its document-editing origins.