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Guess who's back at Microsoft? Excel, Word creator Charles Simonyi

Windows giant devours Office mastermind and his biz, Intentional Software

By Alexander J Martin, 18 Apr 2017

Microsoft has acquired Intentional Software on undisclosed terms.

You may or may not have heard of Intentional Software: it develops a platform for team productivity apps. More importantly, by gobbling up this biz, Microsoft has recaptured Charles Simonyi – the man who spearheaded the building of Redmond's flagship productivity products, Word and Excel.

Simonyi is the pioneer behind intentional programming – a particular paradigm to "enable programmers to express their intentions without sinking in the mire of so-called implementation details." He founded Intentional Software in 2002 to pursue the concept, which he hatched while at Microsoft Research – although he first had thoughts on the design in his days as a student.

Since the early 1980s Simonyi had, with Bill Gates' blessing, run the applications group at Microsoft, with his first application being a WYSIWYG word processor. From there, he oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship Office suite of applications, including Word and Excel, but departed in 2002 to run his own company alongside computer science professor Gregor Kiczales.

A handful of years ago Simonyi spoke to The Register to explain what intentional programming was. There was at the time no mention of a return to Redmond, but today Simonyi wrote:

I recall the time in February of 1981 when I first joined Microsoft. I was truly privileged to take part in the PC revolution, from just a glimmer of what was to come while I was at Xerox, and then at Microsoft creating the ecosystem leading to the universal acceptance of the mouse-based GUI interface and networking.

In 2002, I left Microsoft to pursue my special interest in programming productivity in a new company, Intentional Software. After considering a wide range of problems to tackle – and once Eric Anderson joined as CEO – we decided to focus our efforts on the development of a platform that is exceptional in its ability to represent, view, and interact with knowledge bases in general and heterogeneous distributed documents in particular. For the last two years, we were working closely with Microsoft to see if there are synergies between our technology and Microsoft's plans, which eventually led to today's acquisition announcement.

I am excited, stoked, amped, and elated to join forces again with Microsoft, the premier high-tech company in the world. I am very happy that after this deal is completed, the talented team at Intentional will have a fantastic new home to continue our work and contribute to great products.

Such a return is now guaranteed, and trumpeted by Rajesh Jha, the executive veep of the Office Product Group, who said:

Over the past few years, the Intentional Software team has applied their programming expertise to develop productivity scenarios for the future workforce.

Many of you will remember Charles for the work he led during his distinguished career at Microsoft. During his tenure, Charles oversaw the creation of some of Microsoft's most well-known productivity applications, such as Excel and Word. Now it's my honor to welcome Charles back to Microsoft, along with his exceptional team.

This acquisition will see Intentional Software's technology and talent joining Microsoft's productivity offerings. "We're excited about the company's work on productivity applications, especially given our focus of putting people at the center of experiences and our continued effort to reimagine collaboration," said Jha. ®

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