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Microsoft has the #1 Word Processor(Word), the #1 spread sheet program(excel) for nearly 30 years. These programs became #1 in their niches prior to being bundled together in Microsoft Office. Microsoft supplanted different established, industry leaders in their respective niches; nearly simultaneously. How did Microsoft accomplish that?

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    I don't understand why this excellent question has been treated so shabbily. Isn't history of technology part of history? If someone came here asking for why, say, Red-figure pottery replaced Black-figure pottery in the 6-5th centuries BCE, that would be a nice question, wouldn't it? Well, this is the same sort of question, only easier to answer. :) – Felix Goldberg Dec 24 '17 at 9:30
  • @Felix Goldberg. I agree that this question does not deserve the downvotes, but I think it would be best answered on another SE. – Lars Bosteen Jan 21 '18 at 0:27
  • @FelixGoldberg Perhaps the downvotes were due to factual errors in the question. e.g. "These programs became #1 in their niches prior to being bundled together in Microsoft Office" (see comments on DenisdeBernardy's answer below). – sempaiscuba Jan 21 '18 at 0:47
  • Microsoft office was introduced in 1992 after word and excel had displaced WordPerfect and Lotus. – JMS Jan 21 '18 at 4:09
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Microsoft basically took advantage of the growth: it bundled Word and Excel into as many new PCs as it could.

In the early days of the PC, growth was so phenomenal that more new PCs were sometimes sold in a year than in the history of computers.

In such a context, if you bundle your software with every PC sold (in exchange for, say, Windows), you'll have over 50% of the market installed next year, over 75% in two years, etc. It doesn't matter if your product isn't better or perfect - it'll be good enough for many.

(And by around windows 3.1, both pieces of software were decidedly better if memory serves me well. Then again I wasn't playing around with the alternatives much.)

  • Can you elaborate on that second paragraph? I don't doubt that there may have been such a period, but I'd be surprised to find it was before the Win95 era (which is the end of what I'd consider "the early days"). – T.E.D. Dec 22 '17 at 17:35
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    @JohnDee - "Bundled" != "Free". – T.E.D. Dec 22 '17 at 18:34
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    Also, if you bundle your word processor & spreadsheet, along with your OS, on every PC sold, you have a large "market" share, even if many PC buyers never use the word processor or spreadsheet. Or indeed, if the first thing they do with the new machine is to install Linux, and then use LaTeX for all their word processing. – jamesqf Dec 22 '17 at 19:34
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    This one shows PC word processing market share with a variant of Word only passing WordPerfect in '93. – T.E.D. Dec 22 '17 at 20:48
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    @sempaiscuba - Also 1 year after Windows 3.1 was released, which was the first version of Windows that supported TrueType (scaleable) fonts. That was kinda a big milestone for desktop publishing. – T.E.D. Dec 22 '17 at 21:33
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Microsoft went for the users, at home. Not companies. That too, of course. But conquering the home market was the priority. Their strategy was that once people start working with MS Office products at home, they would ask for it in the company. This really worked.

Word Perfect missed the step from DOS to Win 3. Lotus 1,2,3 was the default spreadsheet for most companies in Win 3. Ami Pro was their word processor, and very, very good.

Then Win 95 came out. The Lotus company did the opposite of Microsoft; they completely re-wrote their software and focused entirely on business usage. so much so, that even I thought: well, if I have to learn everything all over again, I might as well switch to MS. Probably lots of people thought the same thing, because Lotus vanished in a short time.

Microsoft did rig the odds very much in their favor: third parties didn't get all the information they needed to make competitive software. The real goodies were kept for MS Office products.

Microsoft rigged whatever was possible. For example, their browser was, initially, separate from the OS. When they tried to kill Netscape (Now Mozilla) by giving the browser away for free, they ran into trouble. This wasn't allowed. So they re-engineered the browser to integrate it in the OS. Problem was that it didn't work on the first congressional hearing. Senators are usually dumb as shit, so they allowed another hearing to give MS the opportunity to work out the bugs. In effect, it was like giving a burglar a second chance to successfully get away with the loot.

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    Microsoft used their control over the operating system to deny consumers choice. That's what a predatory monopoly does. WP and Lotus didn't miss the step... they were tripped. – JMS Dec 23 '17 at 0:36
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    @JMS: Yes, very true. But what I wrote are simply bad business decisions. Compare Lotus Ami Pro with Lotus Word Pro. Entirely different. The competition was tripped, but after that kicked themselves in the groin because it felt so good. ;-) – Jos Dec 23 '17 at 2:54
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    That’s nice imagery. – JMS Dec 23 '17 at 3:22
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Back then the OS still had to be installed manually on either an IBM PC or clone. PC DOS for IBM PCs. MS DOS for clones. Then Windows was installed from separate disks also manually not pre installed.

Starting with windows 2.0 Microsoft gave away word and excel with every version of windows. There wasn’t many native windows packages available but Microsoft word and excel were available and free.

Back then hard disk space was rare. And measured in megabytes not gigabytes. If you had installed Windows 1.x, many did not. But if you did install windows 1.x you probably deleted it shortly after checking it out. because it took up disk space and while pretty and cool there wasn’t much you could do with it. With Windows 2.0 it became more practical as you could actually do a few things with it. But word processing and spreadsheets in windows natively was all Microsoft.

windows 2.x was the first package which I could justify leaving installed. Windows 3.0 and especially windows 3.1 would become ubiquitous with Dos. Which remained a separate product until Windows 95.

Microsoft misled their competition. Microsoft said Microsoft Windows wasn't going to be a pursued product line. That OS/2 was going to be the OS branch which would get the majority their developers attention and improvements. This caused their competition to wast time and resources developing OS/2 products which had no hope of market penetration. Then Microsoft did exactly what they said they would not. They did not pursue OS/2 and they made massive investments in Windows.

Memo where Microsoft Says OS/2 is the Future and Windows is short term entry level way to transition users from DOS to OS/2

In a Joint Memo with IBM enter image description here enter image description here

The #1 Word Processing and Spreadsheet companies therefore develped products for OS/2.

  • Word Perfect developed and released a GUI version of their product WP 1.5 for OS/2 1.2 in 1989.
  • Lotus 123 for OS/2 was released 1990.

from PC Mag Jun 27, 1989 see "In Short:" below
enter image description here

Only Microsoft was developing versions and continuous improvements on it's Windows platform and when that Platform matured.. They were the only ones with Word Processing and Spreadsheet offerings.

The beginnings of Microsoft's Troubles with the FCC. Microsoft would eventually be found a Predatory Monopoly.

Infor World March 18, 1991

enter image description here

NYTimes 1991 NY Times

Microsoft In Inquiry By F.T.C.

Microsoft shares plummeted Monday after Rick Sherlund, an analyst with Goldman, Sachs & Company, issued a report on the F.T.C. investigation. Mr. Sherlund said the chief executives of several competing companies had told him they had been reached by the F.T.C. The Lotus Development Corporation confirmed today that the F.T.C. got in touch with it six weeks ago and that it was cooperating with the commission.


There would be many of these kinds of Behaviors from Microsoft. Where Microsoft leveraged OS capabilities to gain and maintain a dominant predatory position in the software market.

  • Stacker
  • Intel
  • IBM OEM business
  • OS/2
  • Lotus Notes
  • Java
  • Netscape

Microsoft would eventually be found guilty in Federal Court of being a Predatory Monopoly.

U.S. VS. MICROSOFT: THE OVERVIEW; U.S. JUDGE SAYS MICROSOFT VIOLATED ANTITRUST LAWS WITH PREDATORY BEHAVIOR APRIL 4, 2000

predatory and anticompetitive behavior and kept ''an oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune,''

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