Microsoft's 10 Lucky Breaks

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Microsoft's 10 Lucky Breaks

It's the second of three Friday 13ths this year. Last month, we looked at 'Microsoft's 10 Unlucky Breaks' Now it's Microsoft's 'Lucky' Friday the 13th. The company's rise through the 1980s and 1990s is really a series of lucky breaks combined with business savvy and execution on the vision of one PC on every desk. We've picked 10, which are presented in order of descending importance, with No. 1 being most significant and No. 10 the least.

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Internet Goes Code Red

The worm that infected several hundred thousand unpatched Internet servers in July 2001 looked like bad luck. More than other viruses, Code Red exposed weaknesses in Microsoft's and its customers' security management. Six month later, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates would make security the company's top priority. It was a lucky break.Photo Credit: Microsoft

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Apple Fires CEO Steve Jobs

The boardroom coup that sent Apple's co-founder packing in May 1985 was a lucky break for Microsoft. Apple's fortunes began a long, steady decline, leaving the company near ruin around the time Microsoft shipped Windows 95. Apple's rise from near-death following Jobs return in 1996 hints at what might have come from a 1980s power struggle with Microsoft.Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox

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Jerry Yang Plays Hard to Get

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer should send former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang flowers and chocolates every May Day. Yang resisted taking Microsoft's $44.6 billion unsolicited bid, so Microsoft withdrew it. Good thing. Months later, the September 2008 economic collapse could have crippled a Microsoft burdened by integration and debt just as software sales collapsed.Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

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Lotus Skips Windows

Loyalty sometimes comes at a steep price. Lotus 1-2-3 was the spreadsheet king in the early 1990s. But Lotus stuck with DOS and bet on OS/2, a cooperative OS project between IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft would later dump OS/2, betting on Windows. Lucky break. By the time Lotus reversed course for Windows, it was too late for 1-2-3. Excel won.Photo Credit: Screen capture; Wikipedia

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Novell Buys WordPerfect

WordPerfect already was in decline when Novell purchased it in March 1994. Like Lotus, WordPerfect stuck with DOS, delaying its move to Windows. The acquisition proved disastrous for WordPerfect. Novell made several strategic mistakes that effectively eliminated any serious productivity suite threat to Microsoft Office.Photo Credit: Screen capture; Wikipedia

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Windows 95 Launches

The planets aligned and people waited in line to buy Microsoft's pseudo-32-bit operating system. The launch made geeks cool, too. Microsoft's decision to leave IBM waiting at the OS/2 altar paid off handsomely. Microsoft simultaneously released Office 95 with Windows 95. Businesses bought the software duo by the millions, later creating two monopolies.Photo Credit: BetaNews

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Microsoft Seeks Software Assurance

Microsoft's annuity licensing program looked unlucky in mid 2001, as customers backlashed against price increases. But Microsoft stuck to its plans, compelling customers to pay upfront over several years for upgrades. Software Assurance smoothes out Microsoft revenue flow and insulates against sales downturns like the one underway now.Photo Credit: Microsoft

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The United States vs. Microsoft

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's early 2000 anti-trust ruling demanded the breakup of Microsoft. But Microsoft got not one but two lucky breaks. The judge didn't hold a remedy hearing and he spoke privately to journalists. An appeals court removed Jackson, allowing Microsoft to later settle on more favorable terms.Photo Credit: Microsoft

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The Clone Wars

The Compaq Portable, or "luggable," paved the way for an industry of IBM PC clones running MS-DOS and, later, Windows. While people often refer to Wintel, meaning Microsoft Windows and Intel, it was Compaq and Microsoft that together opened the different channels through which PC clones were developed, sold and serviced around 'industry standards'Photo Credit: Public domain

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IBM Licenses MS-DOS

Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates wanted to license IBM a programming language. Instead, they licensed an operating system after negotiations collapsed between Digital Research and IBM for CP/M. Microsoft would acquire and license DOS, later called PC-DOS by IBM and MS-DOS by Microsoft, for the IBM PC, which debuted in August 1981.Photo Credit: Microsoft