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Re: [xml-dev] "Open XML" et al... Blech... Re: [xml-dev] Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?

Michael Kay wrote:
> Office and Windows are good products and are highly successful because they
> meet user needs, but they are also outrageously profitable. The high profits
> are derived essentially because (a) there's a natural tendency in the user
> community to converge on a single product, thus creating an effective
> monopoly

I'm unsure about a 'natural tendency' to converge on a single software product, 
but individuals are often constrained by IT policies. Many organizations reduce 
support costs by restricting the software that can be installed on desktop 
computers. And people often prefer to use the same software at home that they 
use in the office.

The reason Microsoft Office is where it is today can be traced to the philosophy 
of a famous Confederate general whose formula for victory was "Git thar firstest 
with the mostest".

WordPerfect, WordStar, DisplayWrite, MultiMate and other word processors 
competed for supremacy on PCs. WordPerfect became dominant by 1990, when Lotus 
1-2-3 was the dominant spreadsheet. But both were text-mode DOS software. Bill 
Gates bet the company on Windows and GUI. He insisted that Microsoft's 
developers write for Windows, even though adoption rates for Windows were very 
low from 1985-90. When Windows 3.0 arrived, it rapidly expanded the market for 
GUI-based desktop applications and heated up a price war for word processors.

Microsoft's pricing was competitive. Lotus Ami Pro, for example, was more 
expensive than WinWord for several years until IBM bought Lotus. WordPerfect was 
late coming out with a Windows product. It was inferior and over-priced until it 
was too late - when Word for Windows had become entrenched. The price war saw 
Word for Windows drop from $250 to $59 between 1989-1997.

Gates and Co. came out with an integrated office suite for Windows and settled 
down for a long war of attrition against competitors who were late to the 
Windows market, such as WordPerfect, Lotus and Borland. Lotus was committed to 
OS/2 and Excel was the only spreadsheet for Windows for several years. Borland 
had pushed products for OS/2, such as Sidekick, ObjectVision, C++ and Turbo 
Pascal. IBM started bundling Sidekick with OS/2 in 1988. It wasn't until 1991 
that Borland hopped on the Windows bandwagon with Paradox for Windows and 
Quattro Pro for Windows.

The Microsoft monopoly on the desktop was primarily the result of choices by 
competitors who were reluctant to adopt Windows until the market forced their 
hand. In some cases they'd committed to OS/2 to emerge as the dominant OS for 
PCs. Other companies simply opposed the concept of using PCs for office systems 
and client-server computing, pushing alternatives such as X-Windows / Open Look 
/ Motif workstations.  Those decisions were the eventual undoing of some 
executives and companies, such as Philippe Kahn (Borland) and Ken Olsen (DEC). 
Microsoft benefited from a substantial infusion of talent from Borland. 
Likewise, DEC's unraveling enabled Microsoft to pick up operating system 
developers and database talent. That enabled Microsoft to expand from games and 
desktop software to become a player in server software, enterprise computing and 
the Internet.

======== Ken North ===========


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