Slashdot links to an intriguing Technologizer piece about the days when dominance of the graphical desktop on personal computers was far from a foregone conclusion.
The company had announced [Windows] in November of 1983, before most PC users had ever seen a graphical user interface or touched the input device known as a mouse. But by the time Windows finally shipped two years later, after a series of embarrassing delays, it had seemingly blown whatever first-mover advantage it might have had. At least four other major DOS add-ons that let users run multiple programs in “windows” had already arrived.
Just like Microsoft’s late arrival on the Internet and more specifically the web, the article outlines one of the earliest object lessons from dealing with the Redmond giant. Their engineering strength, including the ability to deliver in a timely fashion, has far less to do with their business practices. In this case, the premature announcement seriously affected the behavior of competitors already shipping their offerings, in ways that ultimately played to Microsoft’s advantage.
The rest of the article is a nifty nostalgia trip. Mac and OS/2 are not in a surprisingly full list because they didn’t run on DOS, like the rest of these competitors did. Microsoft’s marketing shenanigans were also the sole sole contribution to these failures. Some of the patent and trademark activity is very reminiscent of the sort of litigation that still goes on today over hotly contended software markets, like mobile computing and smart phones.