Microsoft pioneer leaves to form software start-up

17 September 2002 Charles Simonyi, a computer scientist and veteran of software giant Microsoft, is to set up his own software tools company that aims to make the task of programming less complicated.

This will leave Microsoft with just three of the team that helped to shape the company in the early 1980s: CEO Steve Ballmer, co-founder and chairman Bill Gates and group vice-president Jeffrey Raikes. Microsoft will announce Simonyi’s departure today – he had been the company’s chief architect until 1999.

The key focus of Simonyi’s new company Intentional Software, based in Bellevue, Washington, is to reduce developers’ reliance on the text syntax of conventional programming languages. Intentional’s tools will enable developers to use graphical images and charts, as well as text-based languages, to encapsulate and represent a software application.

This should make it easier to build and decode complex software, especially from graphically represented design specifications. In addition, it should also ensure that fewer innovative programming ideas get lost or overlooked, which often happens with text-based languages. Software heavyweights such as IBM and Sun Microsystems are also developing tools that focus more on graphical images.

However, Simonyi’s move will have little, if any, impact on Microsoft. This is because Simonyi’s has not worked on product development at Microsoft for the past couple of years, but has concentrated on his software engineering project, called the Intentional Programming Project. In addition, Simonyi has never worked on the business side at Microsoft, unlike Ballmer, Gates and Raikes.

Simonyi has an agreement with Microsoft to use the intellectual property he developed during his time at the company. Microsoft has a first refusal right if Intentional Software is put up for sale.

Since joining Microsoft in 1981, Simonyi has contributed substantially to the success of Microsoft’s Office applications suite including work on the development of Word and Excel.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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