eWEEK at 30 How Microsoft Won the 1990s Office Suite Wars

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-10-31 Print this article Print

Meanwhile, companies such as Lotus, Borland and WordPerfect were making money selling stand-alone application software. And they hoped to make more as IBM and Microsoft joined forces to deliver a new PC operating system known as OS/2. However, Microsoft pulled out of the OS/2 agreement and decided to continue developing and perfecting its Windows OS.

Windows proved far more popular than OS/2 and rapidly became the dominant graphical operating system on PCs, which also gave Microsoft an edge in developing Windows applications. It looked liked Microsoft's "Windows everywhere" marketing mantra would mean that enterprise PC users would end up using Microsoft applications almost by default.

To combat this, Lotus and other companies decided to assemble office suites to compete with Microsoft. Novell's Ray Noorda combined WordPerfect with Borland's Quattro Pro spreadsheet. Lotus put together a suite of applications, including its Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, combined with its Approach database, the Ami Pro word processor and the Organizer calendar to form Lotus SmartSuite.

Lotus sold its SmartSuite application suite for both Microsoft Windows and IBM's OS/2. And in 1994, Lotus also acquired the Notes groupware package developed by Ray Ozzie. In 1995, IBM bought Lotus to acquire Notes as a messaging product. That put IBM in Microsoft's cross hairs as an office suite competitor.

WordPerfect became part of an office suite when the company entered into a co-licensing agreement with Borland Software in 1993. The offerings were marketed as Borland Office, containing Windows versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, the Borland Paradox database and a LAN-based groupware package called WordPerfect Office.

Later in 1993, Borland explored expanding its ties with WordPerfect Corp. as a possible way to form a suite of programs to rival Microsoft's nascent integration strategy. WordPerfect itself was struggling with a late and troubled transition to Windows. The eventual joint company effort, named Borland Office for Windows was introduced at the 1993 Comdex computer show.

However, Borland Office never made significant inroads against Microsoft Office. WordPerfect was then bought by Novell. In October 1994, Borland sold Quattro Pro and rights to sell up to a million copies of Paradox to Novell for $140 million in cash to focus the company on its core software development tools and the Interbase database engine. Then Borland set its sights on shifting toward client-server strategy in corporate applications.

Ultimately, the WordPerfect product line was sold twice, first to Novell in June 1994 and then to Corel in January 1996. However, Novell kept the WordPerfect Office technology, incorporating it into its GroupWise messaging and collaboration product.

While Microsoft offered something that looked like a fully integrated office suite in Microsoft Office, a common complaint about early Windows versions of WordPerfect Office was that it looked like a collection of separate applications from different vendors cobbled together, with inconsistent user interfaces.

However, enabling applications from various software developers to work together on every platform was part of Novell's strategy. Novell had acquired WordPerfect for Windows from WordPerfect Corp., Paradox from Borland and various peripheral utilities from other companies.

To get them to all work together, Novell started to evangelize its "middleware," called Appware, as a means for other software developers to run their applications on every operating system. But Appware quickly faded as a cross-platform middleware solution.



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