I'm Michael Suodenjoki - a software engineer living in Kgs. Lyngby, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. This is my personal site containing my blog, photos, articles and main interests.

Updated 2011.01.23 15:37 +0100


The Rise and Fall of WordPerfect

I found (via) a reference to a copy of W.E. (Pete) Peterson's out of print book Almost Perfect from 1994 describing the rise and fall of WordPerfect. Up to 1992 he was Executive Vice President of WordPerfect.

You'll probably remember WordPerfect if you're old enough in the game of PC software development. They pretty much owned the word processor business in the late 1980'ties and the beginning of 1990'ties. But they lost it all.

Reading through the HTML version or the PDF version will give you some insight in the business of commercial enterprise software development which today is still very much relevant. Remember though that it is only one voice that talks. Enjoy.

Excerpt from chapter 3:

“We had no systematic way of deciding what features went into a particular version of the product, but many of the improvements came from the suggestions of our customers, who were constantly calling with requests for more features. If something was easy to do and made sense, it usually made it into the next version. If it was very difficult or not often requested, we would usually put the feature on a schedule for a later release. Sometimes if a customer absolutely had to have a feature right away, and if they were willing to pay a few thousand dollars to fund the work, we would take their money and move the feature to the top of the list.”

Excerpt from chapter 4:

“One other serious problem was our growing reputation for buggy software. Any complex software program has a number of bugs which evade the testing process. We had ours, and as quickly as we found them, we fixed them. Every couple of months we issued improved software with new release numbers. By the spring of 1983, we had already sent out versions 2.20, 2.21, and 2.23 (2.22 was not good enough to make it out the door). Unfortunately, shipping these new versions with new numbers was taken as evidence by the press and by our dealers that we were shipping bad software. Ironically, our reputation was being destroyed because we were efficient at fixing our bugs.”
“We were also hiring programmers. Although it may not seem logical at first, once a product goes out the door, a software developer always needs to add more programmers to the project. Releasing a product is a lot like having an older child move out of the house and a new baby move in. The product that ships, like the child who moves out, still has problems and needs some attention. The new version of the product, like a new baby, also demands a lot of attention. Producing a better version inevitably means a bigger and more complex program, which many times requires even more work than the first version.”

Excerpt from chapter 5:

“To our credit, we did have our share of successes. Our toll free customer support was already a well recognized marketing asset. Unlike Micropro, which referred their customers to dealers for assistance, we wanted to help our customers personally. We wanted to hear their complaints and their suggestions.”

Excerpt from chapter 14:

“Though I say customers are not always right, I do believe they deserve good value for their money and the best service possible within the limits of what is profitable. When a customer asks for more than this, however, I do not think it is right to give in. It is not fair to other customers to offer a higher level of service to those companies that complain the most.”