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back to article Gates: Novell are sore losers, Word trounced WordPerfect

Hard work and the competition's ineptitude saw Microsoft Word thump WordPerfect, Bill Gates told a US court hearing the $1bn anti-competition case brought by Novell. Gates told a court in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday that his Redmond minions "worked super-hard" on Word. He added: "It was a ground-breaking piece of work, and …

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don't know

I don't know about any technical shenanigans. However, I do recall that WordPerfect 6, the first one written for Windows, was pretty bad. I am not a fast typist, and I could get ahead of the cursor.

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FAIL

I was teaching WP at the time. WP was more efficient, more feature complete and an all around better word processor on every front. The only reason WP6 ran so badly on Win95 is because MS wanted it to.

Word chewed through memory and had a binary that was nearly 10x as fat as WP so it's not really feasible that given an even playing field Word would perform better. MS killed WP because they owned the platform and leveraged it to make their software appear better.

Google "IE integration" for another example of this behavior.

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the point

Yes. That's the point of the lawsuit. Microsoft deliberately provided broken APIs that Wordperfect had to use. APIs that made WP look broken. Meanwhile, they used undocumented APIs that actually worked for MS Word.

That is the whole POINT of this lawsuit. Microsoft using its dominant position as the operating system vendor to crush competition to its word processing software. Instead of, you know, actually competing by trying to have a better product. At the time, Microsoft didn't have the better product.

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Horse pukky

As the author says, Word had overtaken WordPerfect in 1994, before Windows 95 came out. So the timing doesn't make any sense. Also, Wordpefect started to go downhill when it was ported to Windows. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows had to be installed in Dos and was unstable. It took them a year to release a stable version for Windows.

WordPerfect also suffered from being bought by Borland in 93 so it could create a "Borland Office", which was a collection of non-integrated applications. Borland then sold to WP to Novell in 94 and then Novell sold it to Corel in 96. That's not what I'd call a stable working environment and during this time not a lot of work was done on integrating the applications. MS spent quite a bit of time doing this.

Where MS did strike a blow against WP was when they started getting the OEMs to pre-install Word on retail Windows PCs. While WP was still doing well in the retail market this move pretty much ended their success here.

Yes, MS did win. But they didn't use dirty tactics against WP. They didn't need to.

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Not just the program quality, MS also illegally leveraged their OS monopoly

to undercut the competition on price. Here in the states MS sold "competitive upgrades" to WP for $100 a copy if you had a legal WP license. Full cost for the program matched the $350 price for a full copy of WP.

I'll grant MS the competitive edges they have won. I won't grant them competitive edges when they leveraged or lied about leveraging their OS monopoly.

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Pure FUD. WP 5.1 was perfectly stable under all versions of DOS

and even Windows 3.x. I know, I used both of them at the time and WP was the superior program. WP6.0 for Windows was crap, but as the other posters indicated, that was because MS used undocumented APIs in their programs. WP 6.1 was stable and still better than Word. Yes I am emphatic and bitter on this one because I depended on WP as my text editor for my graphics publishing duties at the time.

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Anonymous Coward

It even worked under Unix.

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Anonymous Coward

insider knowledge

It was well known by those involved in the industry at the time that MS nobbled Wordperfect. Of course they used dirty tactics.

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Moving The Goalposts

"Also, Wordpefect started to go downhill when it was ported to Windows. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows had to be installed in Dos and was unstable"

The problem faced by WP (and Lotus) was that MS were telling everyone (including their "partner, IBM) that OS/2 was the way forward so everyone was developing for that.

Then MS wrong footed everyone by pulling Windows out of nowhere with Word for Windows (& Excel) ready to ship.

The WIndows ports of WP and Lotus were consequently rushed to market and were forced to use deliberately broken API's making them slow and unstable.

Microsoft have always been a malignant force in the IT industry. Always were and always will be.

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LDS
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Lotus and OS/2

That's not true because Lotus, even after being bought by IBM, always delayed to deliver its products for OS/2 while trying to release on Windows first. I bought Smartsuite 95 or whatever it was called, and I was forced to run the Windows 3.1 version under OS/2 because there were no OS/2 native version. It was promised, but never delivered. OS/2 sinked for its lack of office applications as well.

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Go

Forgive my possible lack of understanding here but...

isn't it the job of software companies to make warez compatible with the OS and not t'other way round?

Am happy to be corrected just seems a little black and white when I look at it like that!

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, but...

...when the predominant OS owner also competes with your product, and builds undocumented private interfaces to gain performance advantages for his own products, then some smell of unfair competition might be detected.

I seem remember from the time that Word was a slicker product, even before Windows, but you could do more with WP. Word was OK for standard company (paper) mail, but you could use WP to produce a properly finished book, including technical text such as formulae. Needed a lot of work though.

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Err...

No. It is the responsibility of the platform vendor to support application development on their platform, otherwise you could make it wilfully hard for anyone but your own developers to create anything (which is exactly what Novell are alleging here).

Would could provide private APIs the deny outside developers access to parts of the system, or you could release documentation (and even working code) very late in the process to advantage your own developers. This is clearly "antitrust".

Now you can develop a platform that is horribly difficult for developers (I'm looking at you Sony) this is fine as long as it is as difficult for your own developers, but why would you?

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Facepalm

yes but....

When said OS is purposefully withholding information that would allow your software to work, it becomes an anti-competitive and therefore illegal act.

The question wasn't whether WordPerpect would work on the underlying OS (DOS really), but did M$ withhold key information to keep it working, or specifically bugger their version of DOS up to ensure that WordPerfect specifically would not run on it.

And bullocks to Gates, I've never heard a more BS argument. Word Perfect 5 is in some ways STILL better than Word's current offering. Word still can't manage to show you all the editing features that are being used, and "hides" things in the background. WP was WAY more loved for many years and only because it wouldn't run on the 95 OS, did Word even have a shot at it. EVERYONE knew this as matter of fact at the time... for Gates to re-write history is disingenuous and utter bollocks! Part of why the world will always remember him as a fiddling little twit that he is. Money can make you "cool" but no amount of money can fix it when you are a total buggering knob.

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Boffin

Novell's allegations are well documented - basically, MS had a bunch of APIs for Chicago (what shipped as Windows 95) and was encouraging their use by third party companies. They then pulled them in a late beta.

So efectively Microsoft suckered Novell into developing for something that they never intended to ship.

See http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20111121214458515 for all the gory details. But beware - it'll take a long while to read!

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Compatibility

You are correct on that, but the thrust of the case seems to be that Microsoft made changes to the OS which meant that the competition were relying on functions etc which were no longer there or did not work in the same way any more. Word did not suffer the same fate because they did not rely on those functions

It is down to whether the changes were made in full knowledge of what was being used by whom or if it was just a happy accident that Word was not affected.

Yes, I know where I would put my money but that doesn't mean I am right, or that the courts see it that way.

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LDS
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Apple is applying the MS lesson

And even put it in your SDK license. You can't use an API they think you should not. MS was just an amateur monopolist, they had (and probably have) hidden APIs but didn't block you to use them if you discovered them (that was how many good DOS applicatins were written, BTW).

Apple is a professional monopolist, they legally bound you to avoid using their own APIs.

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MJI
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I prefered WordStar

And was using it until recently

Now using Orifice (at work) and the ribbon interface is vile. Pity our 2003 CD got damaged.

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WordStar's big failure was changing all the keyboard shortcuts which their costumers had memorised and thus alienating all the customers.

But honestly, the PC office software was diabolical in the early 1990s. Using DOS for office apps? I ran a GUI word processor on my Commodore 64 in 1986, it was part of GEOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEOS_%288-bit_operating_system%29

I'm partly supportive of Microsoft's position that they produced a better application, however what they also did was lock in people as the file format was closed and presumably unavailable for competitors to use. However I don't think this was unusual back then, we've moved forward a little in terms of interoperability but not that far.

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Frankly I don't think anyone's

written a decent Windows word processor, even now. Word still strikes me as clumsy, especially with all the different page view options and so on - all features and no userfriendliness, Wordstar for Windows was a shadow of the Dos product and WP for Windows was pretty poor too.

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No such thing as "a decent word processor"

I'll go further than that: no one's written a "decent" word processor - at least not of the WYSIWYG variety - for any platform. WYSIWYG word processing is a terrible way to produce text, and a terrible way to do page design.

Markup languages with separate formatters (RUNOFF and its descendants, the Script/GML/SGML/HTML family, TeX and LaTeX) have their drawbacks too, but at least they can do text production well (when users have text editors they're comfortable with), and they remove page-design concerns for common document types where custom graphic design isn't required.

That said, WordPerfect had a number of advantages over Word, particularly in its "Reveal Codes" mode. Word has always suffered from broken-black-box disease; when formatting goes wrong, it can be nearly impossible to fix it. (OpenOffice, though it suffers from egregious Word imitation, at least uses OpenDoc, so you can crack open the document and fix the formatting by hand.)

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I remember reading quite a few years ago somewhere that the Word Perfect team had to use APIs/Dlls from MS which, while documented, did not work as expected or lacked functionality. When they deconstructed how Word handled particular features they found that it used undocumented DLLs etc.

If this is true it would seem go to the the heart of the anti-trust argument and put a pretty big dent in Bill's argument that the Word team were simply better.

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Unhappy

Curious, what could this OS feature be that puts users systems in mortal jeopardy

Wordperfect.

The successor to "The jobs not done till Lotus won't run?"

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Gimp

That's, "DOS ain't done..."

http://www.proudlyserving.com/archives/2005/08/dos_aint_done_t.html

Lotus' founders tell a different story.

And too bad for Novell or WordPerfect Corp if they sat on their hands while Microsoft developed Windows pre-95. Didn't WP Corp resist developing on the Macintosh?

I love this quote: "We had to make changes to DOS to help some very old applications that were doing some very bad things." This sounds sooooooo very familiar (IE7 / Vista / UAC / XP SP2).

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This post has been deleted by its author

I must dig out my copy of Office 4.3 sometime and see how quick it is on a modern computer; I'm sure it would be faster than WordPerfect. Now, If I could only get a 5 1/4 floppy drive with a USB adaptor I could try Windows 3.1 as well... Walking stick, depart stage left.

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Anonymous Coward

You'll want 4.3c - wasn't that the one that fixed y2k?

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Windows

Mixed feelings...

I'll 'admit': I'm an Office 2010 user and I really enjoy the things I can do with it. A big influence is the fact that I use Office for my own company, thus I need a good infrastructure which helps me get stuff done, but just so you know I'm still biased (I also love to do some VBA design in my 'spare' time for example).

Gates has a point IMO but its not as black/white as he portraits things here. I've been a heavy WordPerfect user as well, mostly WP5.1. And quite frankly in many aspects that "simple" DOS program way out powered the early versions of Word back then when it came to functionality.

The big issue however was that Word allowed people to use the program without having to follow a study up front to get to learn all the keyboard shortcuts (WP had /many/ of those). That was an advantage. Another big issue was that Office often sold together with Windows.

And that is a very important aspect which should not be ignored either. Back then the whole IT market was way too difficult for our small-minded (errr, I meant busy) politicians to follow or understand so the anti-monopoly rulings as we have now were no way in sight back then.

MS didn't gain the upper hand by merely producing a superior product.

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Typists have more to complain about than Novell

WP for DOS was a favourite of power typists - who could enter and format large chunks of text without taking their hands off the keyboard. It was indeed the "perfect" tool for the typing pool.

Word for Windows meant people could more easily type their own letters and memos and the job for which WP was designed was eliminated. Whatever shenanigans may or may not have gone on behind the scenes, it was the change in the way offices operated that was WP's undoing.

Mind you, I can't help feeling that the perceived efficiency of DIY dictation is an illusion compared to Ms Witherspoon taking down your articles professionally.and bashing our your bons mots as her flying fingers blur before your eyes.

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And a PC on every desk...

"Mind you, I can't help feeling that the perceived efficiency of DIY dictation is an illusion compared to Ms Witherspoon taking down your articles professionally.and bashing our your bons mots as her flying fingers blur before your eyes."

Agreed - aside from the bit about "perceived efficiency", since I don't know any reliable source that every claimed having everyone do their own business writing would improve efficiency.

If you look at the history of innovations in business writing - about the mid-19th century through the early 20th - there's a steady and considerable increase in efficiency and productivity, thanks to technologies like duplication (spirit copiers, etc), vertical filing, and the typewriter. (Yates, /Control Through Communication/, is an excellent reference.) Then the PC becomes ubiquitous; executives, middle managers, and knowledge workers start handling their own business writing; and most of that efficiency and productivity is lost.

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usual MS monopolist behaviour

The contest between WordPerfect for MSDOS and Word for Windows was over the moment one tried Word -- the weird formatting marks and preview options of WP were stone age.

The problem is that Microsoft now own the word processing market and have tried various annoying strategies to crowbar users into buying unnecessary new versions which are merely bigger rather than better than the existing.

Latest nonsense is to make .docx the default save in Word so that more idiotic users send me attachments that my perfectly usable Word 2000 won't open. I usually respond with a sharp note that they should investigate the "mysteries" of Save As options and resend their document in the universal .doc format.

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"By installing the Compatibility Pack in addition to Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003, you will be able to open, edit, and save files using the file formats in newer versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint."

http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=3

HTH.

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Anonymous Coward

This will go nowhere

Surprised Novell has any money to waste on litigation.

Word was better. If it hadn't been users would have flocked back to WordPerfect for DOS (because Word for WIndows was god awful).

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Flame

Messing with key combos (Alt F4) and illegal bundling didn't help either...

Microsoft sneakily changed things so that the key combination Alt F4 would exit the current program... in Wordperfect, that same key combo was a common thing many people used to Block Text prior to copying or doing something to it... so people who had got Wordperfect key combos ingrained were suddenly finding the program closing and losing their work when using the Windows 95 version.

Microsoft also bundled free copies of MS Word for windows with PCs sold with Win 95 into businesses so they were less likely to purchase Wordperfect for Win 95 when the PC already had MS Word on it.

"While WordPerfect retained a majority of the retail shelf sales of word processors, Microsoft gained market share by including Word for Windows in its Windows product on new PCs. Microsoft gave discounts for Windows to OEMs who included Word on their PCs. When new PC buyers found Word installed on their new PC, Word began to dominate market share of desktop word processing."

See wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPerfect

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Anonymous Coward

ALT+F4

"People losing their work"?

Do you mean that they would somehow *also* accidentally click 'Don't save'?

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah...

Alt+F4 has always closed programs on Windows.

MS Did not include WFW with any PCs that I'm aware of, some PCs did have a chopped down version of Word which came with Works, now happily defunct.

The thing is, though - if wordprocessors can run on Windows prior to 95 and they run fine on Win 95, what was the problem with Wordperfect? It ran on Windows prior to 95, why didn't it run ok on 95?

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Sore losers?

I reckon WordPerfect would be less sort if they had enjoyed the unprecedented access to the OS developers that Office developers received. Or if they hadn't been shut out of the preinstall market because MS started discounting and bundling Word with new machines. It was IMO basically a dress rehearsal for what MS did to Netscape later.

While I think WordPerfect didn't help itself by getting progressively crappier, that is no excuse for some of the things Microsoft did to put them down.

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JDX
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I think this one case where MS just made a better product.

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Anonymous Coward

I remember this well ...

I used WordPerfect for DOS for years and it was way ahead of Word -- when WP6 for Windows arrived, it was hamstrung by the fact MS didn't release any Windows API details to competition. The full API was not published then and MS had a distinct advantage over everyone else. Word ran better under Windows 3.1 because it had a raft of API calls which allowed it to.

Word is still not as productive a tool today as WordPerfect for DOS used to be.

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I had WordPerfect for the Atari ST, it was a pretty bad piece of software and seemed ludicrously priced, $400 to type shit on the screen?

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Anonymous Coward

Guilty as Charged

Please, keep in mind that Microsoft is a convicted monopoly.

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Meh

I prefered....

...Amipro but that's just me.

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Paris Hilton

They both sucked/

Ami Pro was better than both!

/troll

I don't think Ami Pro even made it to 95 at all.

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AmiPro

Oh but it did. I still have a Smartsuite Millenium Edition disc where they had renamed AmiPro to WordPro (see what they did there?) but it was just a spiffed up version

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Happy

Compatibility Pack

If you're still using Office 2000, XP (2002) or 2003 then get the Compatibility Pack so you can open and save files in the new Office 2007 & 2010 file formats.

http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displayLang=en&id=3

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tbh my recollection is

that windows had loads of 'workarounds' to get things like word perfect to work, because they'd accessed hidden features ( rightly or wrongly , its always a dangerous thing to do). then let all that lead they had disappear by being more bothered about running to the lawyers instead of fixing bugs or rewriting code.

I'm sort of confused by the 'encouraged to use' then 'pulled' stuff.. Did everyone else have the same problem? It just seems like the usual issues that happen on the roll out of a new os, why was it seemingly only word perfect that had problems?

In fact as someone has already said, the pre-release are in m$ best interest to get software working, otherwise why would people buy windows?

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FAIL

It's easy for a loser who's product has changed hands three times at least, to claim sour grapes because they lost. If their programmers were any good, they could have properly engineered their Word Perfect product to work better on Windows than Microsoft. Novell is just sour grapes that their Netware Network Operating System was relegated to museum piece status due to Microsoft out doing them on Network OS's as well. The simple fact is that businesses and consumers are going to use products that work for them and when everyone around you is using MS Word, what reason do you have to use Word Perfect? Microsoft doesn't like the existence of Open Office, but that is a free compatible office suite that works work Word. Microsoft didn't brake any API's to keep Open Office from working any more than they broke API's to crush Word Perfect or Novel, or Netscape or any other product that goes out of fashion because no one wants it any more.

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I don't give a damn how good the programmer is,

if he doesn't have access to the APIs, including ALL the syntax, he can't write a piece of software that will run properly on an OS. This had nothing to do with DOS/Windows vs NOS. Also see my post above about illegally leveraging the OS monopoly on the price front.

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Anonymous Coward

@Gil Grissum - You're missing one important point here

Even the brightest programmers in the world would have no way in hell to write a good program if the OS maker is withholding relevant information. If you read those court documents you will see that Microsoft officially did consider hiding crucial info from Novell because they considered WordPerfect as being a competitor. They knew exactly what they were doing and this is Novell's claim and the internal memos from Microsoft are very clear on that.

This is the same trick Microsoft is pulling with Samba these days: as soon as EU forced them (huge fines applied in order to convince Microsoft to comply) to publish API for SMB protocols, Microsoft promptly came with v2 of those protocols trying again to limit Samba ability to inter-operate.

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Anonymous Coward

So which APIs did the other companies that made successful Windows Applications in 1995 use, and why didn't those APIs work for what WordPerfect needed to do?

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