Edited by Andrew J. DuBrin
About three decades ago, Microsoft rose to dominance as it became the leading PC operating systems vendor. When the company went public on March 13, 1986, its share price rose from $21 to $28, producing four billionaire and some 10,000 millionaire Microsoft employees (BBC, 2008; Bick, 2005). Microsoft was so embedded in this “winning formula” that it almost let the Internet pass it by. In 1994, rival Netscape introduced a better way to surf the World Wide Web. As computer users around the world were increasingly using this web browser, it appeared that Microsoft ignored the possible impact this new technology might have on its future markets (Stoltz, 2004). Bill Gates dismissed the Internet as being too hard to use, and even called the browser “trivial” (Andrews, 1996). Meanwhile, Netscape’s market share rose to almost 90 percent, as Microsoft’s stock price headed south (Cooper, 1998). It was then that Gates decided to make probably “the biggest U-turn in the history of Microsoft” (Moody, 2009). On May 26, 1995, Gates circulated a memo among senior staff titled “Internet Tidal Wave,” recognizing the improved communication technology and the expanded access to the Internet. The memo outlined Microsoft’s new strategy of placing the Internet at the forefront of its future developments, reprioritizing its efforts in a bid to keep up with the changing external environment. The Internet was “assigned the highest level of importance” and Microsoft engineers were to focus their energies solely on products with the Internet at their core.
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