The Business Apps That Shaped Our Organizations

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Salespeople are the most avid users of business apps, and I think the “Holy Trinity” of business apps would be for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. I might just as well say, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. Microsoft still dominates the market for Windows-based business applications software. It wasn’t always like that though. I’ve written about Microsoft stifling innovation in a previous article, and I was reminded about how widespread this has been when I did some research on cameras in phones.

I think salespeople need cameras for a host of reasons, and I’ve written about that in previous posts. I got to wondering, “who would think of putting a camera in a phone?” Well, Philippe Kahn would and here is a picture of him working on it (courtesy Wikipedia).










I like Philippe Kahn, even though I’ve never met him. When I first started in business for myself and bought my first clone IBM PC, I fell in love with the business apps that Philippe’s company, Borland, were designing for it. Philippe was definitely a risk-taker—he butted heads with the big names of that period (early ‘80s) like Lotus and Microsoft. But first the phone (and the camera.)

It seems like a lot was going on in 1997 to squeeze a camera into a phone, but Philippe claims a first for wirelessly transmitting an image of his newly born daughter, Sophie, to more than 2000 people around the world. A story I read says that he actually put the camera together while he waited in the room in which his wife was in labor.

Borland also developed an early DOS-based spreadsheet program that competed with Lotus 123. I liked it because it was cheaper and did more than 123. By the time Borland had a Windows version of the program Microsoft was well on the way to making Excel dominant in the marketplace. It can’t hurt market share if you develop the operating system and the app under the same roof.

There’s another reason for me to be melancholy about the past and Borland in particular. My first attempt at sales automation in 1989 used Borland’s Paradox, a really nice relational database that I much preferred to Foxpro or Clipper who dominated the market at that time. I automated most of our marketing and sales processes using Paradox and it lasted us well into the nineties.

I think it was in 1993 that Lotus changed Notes pricing such that small companies could buy it. Lotus Notes was not only a database, but a total collaborative environment (email, calendars, to do lists, contact management, team-rooms, discussion forums, file sharing, microblogging, instant messaging, blogs, and user directories—all according to Wikipedia). We ported our design straight from Paradox over to Notes and the rest is history. That product is still serving thousands of users today. The latest manifestation of our CRM and SFA vision is up there in the Cloud, but our twenty-year-old legacy products still serve customers well.

It looks as if Philippe Kahn is still innovating through his company Fullpower, leaders in mobile sensing technology.

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