On this occasion, Microsoft Presspass carries an interview with Peter Pathe, the main guy behind Microsoft Word since 1993.
Peter frankly admits that the animated Office Assistant or the Clippy feature introduced with Word 97 didn't go down well with the users.
We knew that we needed to make Word easier to use and the features more accessible to more people. But it turns out a cartoon paper clip asking if you wanted help with that letter to Mom wasn’t always as welcome as we had hoped it would be.Word Clippy would pop open whenever the program thought the user could use its advice, and frequently the advice was unnecessary or useless in its context. Peter agreed that the feature was more annoying than helpful:
Great people worked on these features, but at the end of the day we needed to make them less obtrusive or simply not have shipped them in the form we did.GUIdebook has a list of Microsoft Word splash screens right from version 1.1.
As of Office 2007, Microsoft has removed the Office Assistant feature in favor of a new help system that searches Microsoft Office Online website for the most recent version of Office help. There's also an option to search offline help.