Revisionist history

I'm working on a posting about software as a service. During my research, I reviewed Microsoft's recent executive memos on the subject. As always happens when I read Microsoft's stuff, I was struck by the loving craftsmanship that goes into those documents. Although these are supposedly private internal memos, I believe they're written with the expectation that they will leak. Microsoft slips little bits of revisionist history into the memos. Since the history notes are incidental to the main message of the memo, most people don't even think to question them. It's very effective PR. Here are two examples. Let's watch the message masters at work:

Ray Ozzie wrote: "In 1990, there was actually a question about whether the graphical user interface had merit. Apple amongst others valiantly tried to convince the market of the GUI's broad benefits, but the non-GUI Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect had significant momentum. But Microsoft recognized the GUI's transformative potential, and committed the organization to pursuit of the dream – through investment in applications, platform and tools."

Reality: By 1990 everyone who understood computers, and I mean everyone, agreed that the graphical interface had merit. Everyone also agreed that Microsoft's implementation of it sucked. Meanwhile Microsoft had tried and failed to displace Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect from leadership in the DOS world because they were established standards. One thing Microsoft recognized about the GUI was its transformative potential to break these software standards and replace them with its own Word and Excel.

And by the way, congratulations to Microsoft for figuring that out. If Lotus and WordPerfect had been more attentive to the shift to GUIs, I don't think Microsoft could have displaced them. That's an important lesson for today's software companies looking at the new development paradigm on the web.

Bill Gates wrote: "Microsoft has always had to anticipate changes in the software business and seize the opportunity to lead."

Wow. Exactly which changes did Microsoft anticipate and lead, as opposed to respond to and co-opt?

But seize is the right word. I like that one a lot.