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25 years of Office roadkill

How Microsoft's productivity suite came to dominance

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25 years ago, Bill Gates announced that Microsoft would smash together its three application programs -- Word, Excel, and PowerPoint -- offering them in a cohesive bundle known as Microsoft Office for Windows. When Office 1.0 arrived in 1990, the apps had very little in common and worked together only under duress.

The second version of Office (enigmatically known as Microsoft Office 3.0, comprised of Word 2, Excel 4, PowerPoint 3, and Mail 3) started carving out a new software category, defining by example the term “office productivity.”

By hook, by crook, FUD, and ruthless pursuit of market share, Office turned into the aging juggernaut you see today. This is our tribute to the many competitors that have fallen prey to the productivity Goliath.


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Word processors: Early DOS word processors

Electric Pencil -- Born: 1976; died: ca 1983, cause of death: neglect EasyWriter -- Born on the Apple II: 1979; ported to DOS: 1981; died of bugs Volkswriter -- Born: 1982, in response to EasyWriter’s bugs; died: ca 1989 Here’s to all of the pioneering commercial word processors, including Homeword, PFS:Write, Bank Street Writer, XyWrite, DisplayWrite, PC-Write, many more. They all flourished then fizzled. All were crushed by the time Office hit the stands. Electric Pencil came first; its history as told in InfoWorld’s May 10, 1982 edition: “The original idea for the first word processor came eventually to Michael Shrayer … [who] had never worked in the computer field.” Shrayer grew bored keeping up with the word-processing Joneses, and Electric Pencil withered away.


  • Word processors: Early DOS word processors
  • Word processors: WordStar
  • Word processors: MultiMate
  • Word processors: WordPerfect for Windows
  • Word processors: Word for DOS and Mac
  • Spreadsheets: VisiCalc
  • Spreadsheets: Lotus 1-2-3
  • Spreadsheets: SuperCalc
  • Spreadsheets: CalcStar
  • Spreadsheets: Microsoft Mutiplan
  • Spreadsheets: Quattro
  • Spreadsheets: Quattro Pro for Windows
  • Presentations: Harvard Graphics
  • Presentations: Full Impact
  • Integrated suites: Context MBA
  • Integrated suites: Ashton-Tate Framework
  • Integrated suites: Lotus Symphony for DOS
  • Integrated suites: Lotus SmartSuite/IBM Lotus SmartSuite
  • Integrated suites: Borland Office for Windows
  • Integrated suites: Novell PerfectOffice
  • Integrated suites: Corel WordPerfect Office Suite
  • Integrated suites: IBM Lotus Symphony
  • Integrated suites: Corel Home Office
  • Integrated suites: Microsoft Works
  • Microsoft Office pushed, nudged, winked, cheated and bludgeoned its way to the top


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