The Most Famous Piece Of Office Productivity Vapourware

When businesses look into IT support, they are often asking for a wide suite of different services to be grouped in a way that makes it easier to manage, easier to implement and easy to use.

This is far from a new desire, and is a primary reason why companies have always had a fondness for software suites: collections of software that fill the vast majority of business needs that are designed to work with each other and share similar usability.

By far the most famous software suite is Microsoft Office, one that is a standard piece of software used in the vast majority of offices. 

However, five years before its initial release in 1988, Ovation Technologies planned to release what could have been a revolution for businesses at the time.

There was just one small problem; their flagship product did not actually exist.

A Standing Ovation

Based in Massachusetts, Ovation Technologies was founded by Thomas Gregory as the developer of business productivity software, coming to the same conclusion Microsoft would in 1988 that businesses would rather cut out the complexities and have an integrated suite of tools.

Whilst office suites have existed since MSI’s StarBurst compilation in 1980, they took some time as a concept to truly take off, with businesses typically choosing specific and familiar business software of their own.

Most of the time, this invariably would be the trio of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program, Ashton-Tate’s dBase database manager, and WordPerfect, considered to be the best word processor of the era.

Choosing three separate software packages by three different companies is a double-edged sword; whilst they were the three best products available at the time, they weren’t cheap and they had limited interoperability compared to the software suites we are used to today.

Ovation saw an opportunity to create an integrated suite and set to work on their eponymous creation, waiting several million dollars in venture capital and quickly securing a deal to bundle the software alongside the Tandy 2000 line of computers.

It was set to feature a word processor, database, spreadsheet, graphics functionality and communications tools at a cost of $795 (Roughly £2000 adjusted for inflation), which combined would have been a particularly impressive software package, something that the industry seemed to agree with when they saw it demonstrated.

The problem with these impressive demonstrations is an issue that is not typically seen in the business-to-business software space; the software was nowhere close to finished, potentially a victim of its unified software environment causing delays and issues.

It was delayed for almost a year before the $6.5m venture capital investment ran out, with the biggest reason according to former director of development Robert Kutnick coming down to the company’s management being driven by marketing rather than development.

Mr Kutnick, in a scathing interview for InfoWorld magazine, claimed that the marketing team would constantly make changes, president Thomas Gregory wanted to wait, add more features and make Ovation perfect, leading to one of the first and most definitive examples of vapourware ever made.

Vapourware, the name for a highly publicised piece of software that is ultimately not released to the public for years if at all, became a major topic for discussion.

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