At the end of 1987, we began working with Quarterdeck Office Systems, a small company with a simple operating system enhancement that allowed DOS users to multitask. It was called DESQview, and they couldn't get people interested in buying it. PC users wanted Windows instead. Despite the fact that Windows at the time was huge and inefficient and unreliable.
A simple 20-minute demonstration of the difference between the two environments would convince any businessperson of the superiority of DESQview for real-world situations. But the main route to delivering that information was the magazines of the personal computer industry: PC Magazine, PC World, PC/Computing, etc. And the editors of those magazines were cheerleading for Windows.
In 1992, we went to lunch with the editor of one of the biggest computer magazines who told a harrowing story about the day his child came home from school with a request that he help with a simple desktop publishing project--the cover of a collection of schoolmates' poems. In order to design and print this simple page, this experienced computer user had to bring home four programs, overcome installation and compatibility issues, consult with with his highly-touted testing lab experts and ultimately was able to print the page--after four full evenings of struggles. The page was too late to use.
The editor told us all this with a straight face. He was compeltely blind to the implications of this story: that if he, with the resources of a multimillion dollar publishing company had this much difficulty, what would an ordinary user have to deal with? And why was his magazine aggressively promoting speed tests with new processors that only 2% of the market really needed, when most users couldn't use what they already had?
We were able to take individual journalists and show them how DESQview was a better solution for the majority of PC users, but this information never found its way into print. And the reason was apparent, if you looked at it from a dollars and cents point of view. With DESQview, you could use your current DOS programs; you didn't need to add memory, and your CPU was fast enough; your disk drive big enough.
With Windows, on the other hand, you would need new programs, more RAM, and probably a faster processor and more hard disk space. (Industry estimates at the time put the cost of switching to Windows-capable platforms and equipping them with software at $1,800-$2,500 per machine.)
Why would the computer magazines promote a solution that cost so little, when the expensive solution brought along so much additional ad revenue from hardware and software producers?
Not to mention training and support companies...
The magazines endorsed and made Windows a de facto standard long before users did, because they needed the advertising revenue. The financial and productivity impact on readers was a secondary concern.
From an advertising and marketing point of view, this was an insurmountable problem. Quarterdeck was spending under a half million dollars a year at the time, and Microsoft was spending over $9 million in the computer mangazines alone. And the revenues from advertisers of hard disks, faster CPUs and windows software programs added up to many times that amount.
As we have all subsequently discovered, Microsoft was essentially forcing Windows and its applications on the PC manufacturers behind the scenes, cementing its market dominance.
Fortunately, because the marketing director of Quarterdeck had the foresight to market QEMM as a separate product, instead of a component of DESQview, the company was able to generate over $150 million in sales from 1987 through 1994. This income allowed Quarterdeck to diversify into other software categories and survive. The marketing director's reward? He was fired when the company had two consecutive losing quarters.
Subsequent management positioned Quarterdeck as 'an Internet company' despite the fact they had no Internet products. This positioning caused the stock price to more than double, but when the reality of Quarterdeck's actual sales of Internet-related products was finally uncovered, hundreds of millions of dollars in value evaporated.
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