Microsoft bought Powerpoint in 1984 for $14 million. And by the way he stole Apple’s wallet

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Microsoft did not create Powerpoint. It acquired the company that had created it. That curiosity that probably many of our readers did not know joins another very striking: the fact that there was a curious battle to buy that software to make presentations. And the one who tried to buy PowerPoint – an application already legendary for both good and bad – in addition to Microsoft was none other than Apple.

Presentations will rule the world. In 1984 Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin were working at Forethought Inc. The company began work on a presentation graphics application in August of that year following Gaskins’s idea, which he outlined in a two-page document.

The development would end two and a half years later: they presented the software in February 1987 and they did so in the only version initially available: the Macintosh version. That application was going to be called ‘Presenter’, but the name was taken, so they ended up calling it ‘PowerPoint’.

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Apple was blown away by that. The presentation was such a success that John Sculley, then CEO of Apple—yes, the one with pepsi— appeared in the official announcement and stated that “we see presentation software as a potentially larger market than desktop publishing.” Those were big words, especially considering that the Macintosh had become the standard for print publishing.

Gates did not see it clearly. At Microsoft they already had plans to do something similar, and in fact they valued the acquisition of a more limited product. When told what PowerPoint developers had accomplished, Gates was unclear. He said that it was going to be just another option in Word, not a separate application.

His employees convinced him, and in late April of that year they met with Forethought officials to see how sales of the Macintosh version were doing. The software was out of stock, and Microsoft saw clearly that this was a great opportunity.

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The initial offer did not work. Those responsible for Microsoft offered 5.3 million dollars for the company. At Forethought they didn’t see it clearly: they didn’t want all of Forethough, just PowerPoint. Their other great product, FileMaker Plus for Mac, had no place on Windows, they claimed.

They rejected the offer, mainly because they had also received two other previous offers that were also interesting. Microsoft continued to make offers, and in fact made one to acquire Forethought in exchange for 100,000 Microsoft shares, which were worth about $12 million at the time. At Forethought they were still not entirely convinced.

Apple was interested, but not enough. The company already had its sights set on an acquisition by one of the big ones. Apple —without a clear offer—, Borland and Xerox were also bidding, but for those responsible for Forethought the clearest path was to receive a higher offer from Microsoft.

Microsoft won the game. Finally, on June 25, 1987, Microsoft agreed to buy Forethought for $14 million in cash. The deal was announced on July 9 and became Microsoft’s “first major acquisition.” From then on Powerpoint became one of the pillars of the Microsoft office suite, and templates began to dominate our lives.

Forethought employees also managed to continue working in Silicon Valley. Bob Gaskin, that recounted detailing the story recently, he said that was perfect and that he used to joke about that deal: “The whole acquisition had been an elaborate plan that we put in place so we could get a job at Microsoft without having to move to Seattle.”

Microsoft did not create Powerpoint. It acquired the company that had created it. That curiosity that probably many of our…

Microsoft did not create Powerpoint. It acquired the company that had created it. That curiosity that probably many of our…

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