Microsoft acquires company run by former Word and Excel head Charles Simonyi


Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday acquired productivity software firm Intentional Software Inc., a Bellevue, Washington-based company founded by Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft employee who oversaw the development of both Word and Excel before leaving the company.

Founded in 2002, Intentional Software builds upon the Intentional Programming project led by Simonyi when he was at Microsoft. Its platform combines knowledge processing with group productivity that is claimed improve productivity and accelerate innovation by “empowering knowledge workers to work more effectively with software programmers.”

“This acquisition will build on the work we’re already doing to deliver the tools necessary to be productive in an information-rich world,” Rajesh Jha, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Office Product Group, said in a statement. “Intentional Software’s technology and talent will enhance our existing capabilities and strengthen our ability to add new tools and services to Microsoft’s robust productivity offering.”

In his own statement, Simonyi said he was “excited, stoked, amped and elated to join forces again with Microsoft.”

Besides some general statements, it’s not clear exactly how Intentional Software’s product will integrate into Microsoft’s Office tools, but the acquisition of a legend such as Simonyi is worthy in and of itself.

Simonyi’s history in the industry is like a walk through some of the most monumental moments in modern computer history. Simonyi, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University with a dissertation on “Meta Programming,” started his career at Xerox PARC. That’s where the Alto, the first computer with a graphical user interface, was created. Simonyi can’t take credit for the Alto, but while at PARC in 1981, he designed the first “what you see is what you get,” or WYSIWYG, word processor. At Microsoft, Simonyi was the chief architect of Microsoft Word and Excel, overseeing the development of the software to the point where it became the de facto standard in both its fields.

Coming into the acquisition, Intentional Software doesn’t appear to have raised any external money, at least none on the public record, meaning that it’s likely Simonyi himself had bootstrapped the company for its 15 years of existence. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval with no time frame given by Microsoft as to when the deal wil close.

Photo: Intentional Software