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Microsoft Evangelizes New Windows Version to Software Developers

August 12, 1991

SEATTLE (AP) _ Microsoft Corp.’s evangelists for its Windows computer software opened a camp meeting Monday for about 2,100 programmers, three times more than Microsoft expected to show up for the conference.

The software company even took out a parade permit so conferees, led by a Dixieland band, could move easily through downtown streets between conference sites Monday evening.

The Windows 3.1 Professional Developers Conference opened on the 10th anniversary of the debut of the IBM personal computer and its Microsoft- developed operating system, MS-DOS. An operating system controls a computer’s internal functions, while applications programs provide specific uses, like word processing.

DOS helped Microsoft become the world’s largest personal computer software maker. But the relationship between Microsoft and IBM has become openly hostile in the past year.

Microsoft has staked its future on a program called Windows, while IBM has pursued a computer operating system called OS-2. Microsoft officials were overjoyed at the turnout of people interested in writing new programs that work with Windows.

Windows makes IBM-type computers easier to operate by giving them a graphics-based operating system similar to that popularized by Apple Computer Inc.’s Macintosh. Windows works in conjunction with DOS.

Conference attendees ranged from owners of one- or two-person software companies to software developers from Boeing and other large corporations.

Their interest is ″vital,″ said Steve Ballmer, senior vice president for systems software at Microsoft. ″That’s the No. 1 asset Windows has. Four million users and all these developers.″

Microsoft, based in suburban Redmond, anticipated perhaps 700 attendees. Instead, the two-day meeting grew to become the company’s largest-ever developers conference, he said.

Besides using two of Seattle’s largest downtown hotels, Microsoft took over the rococo Fifth Avenue Theater for its opening sessions. Attendees, many loaded with Microsoft tote bags and other freebies, filled the house.

IBM developed OS-2 with Microsoft as a successor to MS-DOS. But Microsoft scored a hit with Windows, and has all but abandoned OS-2. It has sold more than 4 million copies since Windows version 3.0 was introduced in May 1990, and expects to sell nearly 8 million this year, Ballmer said.

The conference is aimed at whipping up enthusiasm for Windows and helping speed developers’ work on programs that use a new version of Windows, 3.1, due out before the end of the year.

″We don’t want anybody to go home thinking their questions haven’t been addressed,″ said Microsoft’s Viktor Grabner, whose job title is ″systems technical evangelist.″

Thousands of application programs already have been written for Windows, and Microsoft has shipped more than 70,000 kits used by developers to write more software, Ballmer said.

Version 3.1 will be a fine-tuning of Windows, he said. Microsoft plans future upgrades in coming years, including Windows NT - for new technology - a version for high-powered personal computers and computer workstations due out in 1992.

Ballmer said Microsoft doesn’t plan to modify any of its applications programs to run on future versions of OS-2. Instead, he said, Microsoft counts on IBM producing OS-2 so it runs programs written for Windows.

He told the audience he had heard IBM intends to have OS-2 do a better job of running Windows applications than Windows does.

″It tells us that even IBM recognizes that if OS-2 is going to succeed, it’s going to succeed because it runs the applications that you’re writing,″ he said.

″Do I honestly believe they will run Windows applications better than Windows? Not a snowman’s chance in hell.″

Microsoft also will do all it can to help software developers who are writing programs for OS-2 ″migrate″ back to Windows, Ballmer said.

He also promised Microsoft would do a better job of providing developer support, ″not an area where I give us high ratings today.″

Microsoft will spend $31 million this year on marketing and advertising, with the bulk going toward meetings of developers and software users, he said. The company also will improve its printed materials and make its experts more available, he said.

That’s a good idea, said Joel Goldberger, a developer with Infomagic of Princeton, N.J. In the past, he said, developers had to hunt down the right people to answer questions at Microsoft.

Both he and Mark Warren, of Corporate Associates in Newtown Square, Pa., said they liked the attention Microsoft was showing them.

″We feel like Microsoft is behind their focus and commitment to Windows,″ Warren said. ″You need that level of confidence when you’re investing your money in your product.″

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