I can't say I'm surprised there have been complaints about Microsoft's efforts to license the new Office look and feel . Some think this will stifle their creativity and limit their ability to control the user interface, but I think that's rubbish. This is the same argument people use against software patents. I honestly don't blame Microsoft for being proactive in licensing their UI. This is the first time they've tried to take control of their intelectual property from a design stand-point and it's well-deserved. If you've seen or played with the UI in Office 2007, love it or hate it, it's revolutionary. The reason for the strict control is to ensure there will be a consistent user experience from one app to the next, not to control what you develop. They put a lot of effort into this layout and it shows. Let's face it; we all try to mimic Office when we create applications. We want to use the same look and feel to ensure users can jump-in without training. It's just a smart move. All Microsoft is doing is trying to make it easier for you by documenting what they've done. The other side of the equation -- the limitations they put on usage and implementation -- are to protect end users. Think about it: When you see an app that tries to mimic a specific look and feel, but doesn't do it correctly, it's aggravating because you make assumptions that it'll work one way, but it doesn't. Then, you have to figure out how it does work, which can take a while, depending on how complex the change. This is just aggravating because it can be a huge productivity drain.
For anyone interested, there's a video on Channel9 discussing the UI licensing. I suggest you check it out to get a little more insight in its intentions.
One last thing I have to say... The amount of effort Microsoft put into this new look and feel is one in the face to those who say Microsoft doesn't innovate. Just my opinion, but it had to be said.