By 1997, Citrix was reaping in a great deal of success based on their WinFrame 1.x product line. This software was based on Windows NT 3.51 and instead of just patching a 3.51 installation, Citrix actually shipped a full modified version of NT 3.51. This work had been done by a small core of developers between 1993 and 1995. Work in 1996 focused on supporting the upcoming NT 4.0 release from Microsoft. This version was unofficially called WinFrame 2.0. Citrix had worked hard to support the latest changes and had already merged and tested the code base by early 1997.
Early in 1997, Microsoft declared that it would no longer license the operating system code to Citrix for NT 4.0. In fact, it became clear that Microsoft wanted such work to stay in house. Microsoft had some ventures (investments) in an alternative solution for making NT multiuser. I don’t remember the name of this group but I’m sure someone out there will. The message to Citrix was to either sell the multiuser component or Citrix wouldn’t have this part of the market anymore. Tough negotiations proceeded. The stock price sank. Speculation was rife. Many Citrites of the time saw this as a threat to the survival of the company.
Later that year Citrix and Microsoft struck a deal to sell the multiuser code to Microsoft for something like 185 million dollars over five years. Microsoft would not buy ICA but would instead develop RDP. RDP was originated from another software acquisition. Citrix would no longer be allowed to ship its own versions of operating systems and would be only given a restricted access to the source with no rights to build derivative works from such source.
The company, obviously, survived this crisis. I think it was mostly due to the strength of the work to do multiuser and I would give strong credit to John Richardson, Brad Pedersen, and Mike Discavage. Brad is still with the company and is the Chief Architect and the sole Citrix Fellow. He started with the company in 1989 and obviously is one of the originating developers. His strong Unix background made all the difference during the early years of the company.
1997 was the year I left Citrix to move to Australia. I was offered a Systems Engineer job for Citrix but decided I didn’t want to travel to all the English speaking countries in the southern hemisphere as part of my job. I started with a local reseller in Brisbane instead.