From the Inside Flap
The creators of PowerPoint overcame great dangers twice, each time pulling out an improbable win. Early on, as a startup named Forethought, they nearly died many times, but gained an investment from Apple (its first) and managed to ship an acclaimed product. Then they were an acquisition by Microsoft (its first, also), where they contrived to become an independent business unit and to remain in Silicon Valley, so that product development could be continued under control of the original group until the whole framework of the idea had been completed.
Now, twenty-five years later, primary school children must pass exams in PowerPoint because their teachers believe that knowing it will be vital to their future success at all levels of education and in their careers. Steven Pinker says that "these days scientists ... cannot lecture without PowerPoint." Sermons are delivered using PowerPoint in church buildings rebuilt to incorporate large screens for the purpose. Diplomats use PowerPoint to address the United Nations. Businesses and non-profits of all sizes employ PowerPoint. Newspapers and magazines and books mention PowerPoint casually with no explanation needed. Novelists write chapters of their books in PowerPoint. In a world of seven billion people, Microsoft says that PowerPoint is now installed on more than one billion personal computers.
You would expect that it has always been obvious that PowerPoint was a good idea. But Robert Gaskins, writing here from notes made at the time, describes how, for three years until the first product was completed, almost everyone (including potential investors) thought it was unpromising. Only relentless determination by the core group and a few visionary investors kept PowerPoint alive to succeed.
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From the Back Cover
PowerPoint was the first presentation software for Macintosh and Windows personal computers. During development as a startup, it received the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple Computer. PowerPoint 1.0, for making overheads on Macintosh, was shipped in 1987. Soon thereafter, it became the first significant acquisition ever made by Microsoft, who set up a new Graphics Business Unit in Silicon Valley to develop it further. A color version to make 35mm slides was shipped in 1988 and for Windows in 1990, live video was added in 1992. By then, PowerPoint sales were over $100 million a year and it was becoming the standard for presentations. It is now installed on over one billion computers worldwide.
"Within today's corporation, if you want to communicate an idea to your peers or to your boss or to your employees or to your customer or even to your enemy, you use PowerPoint." --Rich Gold, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
"For many purposes, PowerPoint presentations are a superior medium of communication, which is why they have become standard in so many fields." --Stephen M. Kosslyn, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University
"If anything, PowerPoint, if used well, would ideally reflect the way we think." --Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works
"Robert Gaskins was the visionary entrepreneur who in the mid-1980s realized that the huge but largely invisible market for preparing business slides was a perfect match for the coming generation of graphics-oriented computers." --Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal
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