Back in the early days of Macintosh, when a list of all the software available for the Mac could be printed in the back of every issue of MacUser, a small company called Lotus introduced a new product class for the Mac: integrated software. Jazz, which included word processing, database, communications, and charting functions, wasn’t based on a completely new idea; Apple had AppleWorks for the Apple ][ series, and there were some similar products for DOS. But it was a new thing for Mac users, who until then had usually had to swap floppies, and often change startup disks, to switch tasks.
Jazz fell by the wayside a long time ago, and its planned successor, Modern Jazz, never materialized. In the meantime, Microsoft, which has been accused of following a "me-too" software approach after making a name for itself with MS-DOS a decade ago, introduced Microsoft Works. Works was similar in approach to Jazz, but a lower price, better compatibility with other software, and Microsoft’s market clout gave it a much bigger market share.
Even Microsoft Works was not an outstanding package. It has existed at the front of its category for a long time mainly because there were no other players, and not that strong a demand. When Apple introduced its three new inexpensive Macs last fall, though, they created a relatively new market: low-end users with low-end pocketbooks to match. These users thought that being able to buy a single, inexpensive package that filled most of their software needs was a great idea.
At this point, some other developers realized that there was a market to forge. Symantec, Beagle Bros, and Claris have all announced integrated software packages, and in fact Symantec has shipped their entry, called GreatWorks. BeagleWorks was presumably the subject of the "we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you" ad a few weeks ago, and Claris Works offers the standard interface that most Claris products have in common.
Symantec and Beagle Bros sound like unusual sources for this kind of productivity software, but in fact this move makes sense for them. Symantec has been looking to leap into the Mac productivity arena for a while; they have a strong presence in the utility software and programming environment areas, but their general productivity software has existed only on DOS platforms. Beagle Bros is a company well known among old-timers for its innovative utilities for the Apple ][, but what’s probably less known is that they wrote AppleWorks 3.0 for Claris, according to a recent MacWEEK article. This makes them a great candidate for designing a new product in the integrated category for the Mac.
It remains to be seen how all of these products will fare, especially since the new entries are up against the Microsoft monolith. Microsoft has already taken the first step towards securing its market share, or at least as large a chunk as possible, by lowering the retail price of Microsoft Works from $295 to $249. (The other integrated packages have, or are expected to have, suggested retail prices of $295 or $299.) That’s not a huge price reduction, but in this low-end market, that almost $50 cut could make a big difference to buyers. Without that price differential Microsoft Works would no longer stand out; in fact, GreatWorks seems overall to be a better package; but with it, the buyer has another reason to lean towards the Microsoft product.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes to the retail pricing of BeagleWorks and Claris Works before they ship, but it would probably be a mistake for Symantec to reduce the GreatWorks price immediately. We’ll provide additional coverage to the Integrated Software Wars as events warrant, but in the meantime it should be amusing to watch Microsoft fighting a battle it thought was long since won.
MacWEEK — 7-16-91, Vol. 5, #25, pg. 1
MacWEEK — 30-Jul-91, Vol. 5, #26, pg. 7
Playboy — Sep-91, Vol. 38, #9, pg. 134