A lesson in standards gone wrong.
The latest released versions of Windows and Office both sport various UI enhancements. They are the result of two different development teams, so it’s not surprising that they have different UI updates. What is surprising is that these two entirely separate products manage to make the same mistake in two different ways. They both use universally recognized symbols for something other than what those symbols are recognized for. Let’s start with Windows Vista.

The symbol contained in the button next to the lock is the same as the physical buttons on many electronic devices I own. This button either turns on or turns off (via shut down if necessary) the device. So when time came for Vista’s maiden shutdown, I immediately located and clicked this button. Imagine my surprise when the computer went to sleep instead of shutting down. After waking the machine back up, I held the mouse pointer over the button in question and was kindly notified that this button “Saves your session and puts the computer in a low-power state so that you can quickly resume working.” Based on this experience, this post looked fairly straight forward: Point out the flaw, show the standard behind the symbol, and have some laughs at Microsoft’s expense. Sadly the issue is not that straight forward and while Microsoft does deserve some blame, it is the standard behind the symbol that is the cause of this particular confusion. According to the IEC this symbol indicates:
IEC 5009, the standby symbol (line partially within a broken circle), indicates a sleep mode or low power state. The switch does not fully disconnect the device from its power supply. This may appear on a toggle switch opposite a power on symbol, alone on a pushbutton that places the device into a standby state, or alone on a button that switches between on and standby.
Seems fairly clear cut, right? Unfortunately, no. There are three problems with this definition: first, there are a variety of low power states; second, some devices use multiple low-power states; and last, some of these power states are recognized by the user as “Off” while others are recognized as “Stand by”. As a result, the IEEE modified the standard in 2004. They determined that there were only 3 states users needed to be aware off: On, Off, and Sleep. On was defined as when the gadget was in full operation. Off was defined as a low power state indiscernible from hard-off. Sleep was defined as a user recognized low power state where the gadget still responds to external inputs. The IEEE removed the sleep state from existing symbol, leaving it only to mean “On/Off”, then added the crescent moon symbol to handle sleep state separately.

To summarize:
– On/Off
– Sleep

So based off all of this, the Vista team was not ignoring any standards when designing their Stand-bye button. Instead they were just using an out of date standard.