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Where technology and culture collide

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is Google Trying to Out-Microsoft Microsoft?

In the early 1990s, WordPerfect dominated the word processor scene, and Microsoft Word was a scrappy underdog. It's hard to believe now, but it's true.

As Word rose in popularity, many WordPerfect users resisted. They had spent so much time learning the WordPerfect-specific keystrokes, called function keys. So what did Microsoft do? They enabled a mode whereby WordPerfect keystrokes would execute the same commands in Word that they did in WordPerfect.

In addition, Microsoft gave discounts on Windows to OEMs who included Word on new PCs. The result was (and maybe still is) that most new PCs came with Word pre-installed, and the additional cost was pretty low.

Besides, WordPerfect was really just a relic of the DOS era, and Word was a creature of the new world of graphical computing. And the rest, including WordPerfect as a dominant application, is history.

Microsoft's tactics proved fatal to WordPerfect's preeminence. This was largely lost to history, but its lesson was not lost on Google. It appears that history is repeating itself. This time, Microsoft is the target


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