Microsoft: An Interesting Case Studyby Paul Sullivan on September 25, 2001 12:35 AM EST
- Posted in
- IT Computing
Back in the Day, there was DOS 5.0, and it was good. It was light years ahead of the DOS of days past. You had some memory management, some much improved on-disk help, a pseudo-graphical file manager and a host of integrated utilities and features including a full-screen text editor, Un-delete, Un-format, basic task switching and the integration of Qbasic instead of GW Basic. It was a monumental step forward and set a solid foundation for what was to follow. With this release, we could see that Microsoft was listening to their clients and trying to address some of those concerns. Of course, part of the decision was likely motivated by the growing DOS enhancement market, lead by companies like Quarterdeck and their QEMM and Desqview products. It was also motivated by competition from DR DOS, but in the end the software itself was a pretty good step. The step to DOS 6.22 was much less about innovation and quality code, but more about adding value to the package with a variety of third party utilities. As far as consumers were concerned, however, it was again a step forward. An all-in-one solution that was more compatible and more flexible than previous DOS solutions had been.
Then came Windows. Regardless of how it all came about, when Windows 3.1 became a reality, users flocked to it in droves. One thing that people have overlooked in casual conversation about Windows 3.1 was the full-blown inclusion of scalable typefaces at no additional cost. This was truly one of the very best additions to the package from a value standpoint, and for many, it helped make desktop publishing and complex document creation a reality on the PC. Before, the only real options for scalable fonts were expensive offerings by Bitstream and Adobe, both involving around PostScript font collections. These tended to be extremely expensive, easily in the hundreds of dollars per type face, and were one of the biggest expenses that Macintosh document publishers faced. It was a near monopoly dictated by a few, and with the introduction of True Type fonts on the PC side, Microsoft engineers had saved our collective bacon and offered us what could be considered the first "killer app" of the Windows era up to that point. As a result of this bold step by Microsoft, cost barriers have crumbled and scalable fonts are widely available for little or no cost to the masses. One stranglehold was broken, and others would soon follow.
In order to sell people on the Windows platform, Microsoft developed their Office Suite of products. Excel was surely a best-of-breed application and was strong enough to get people to take the leap. Microsoft Word for Windows was, and always has been a less than elegant solution when compared to some other word processing applications, but when you threw it in with the impressive Excel at a reduced cost, consumers couldn't really resist. As awkward as it was, it was still easier to use for many people than Word Perfect for DOS. Perhaps another key selling point was the inclusion of the Windows Clipboard. At first people may not have known what the benefits were, but as time went on, consumers found it to be an indispensable tool. We can debate about the effectiveness and value of OLE, but the simple cut and paste functionality of the clip board allowed for easy data transfer between applications unlike anything we had really seen before on the PC side.
As time went on, Microsoft added further bells and whistles to both Windows and Office, including the integration of 2D and 3D charts and support for graphic frames with drag and drop control. The drag and drop file management in Windows 3.1 was a welcome addition, as were the multimedia features later introduced. Yes, Windows was certainly not a pretty beast in the beginning, but the simple fact was Microsoft programmers successfully pushed the envelope where few had bothered in the past.