1989-1992 The very beginning

This isn’t going to be easy to write about.  I wasn’t there in 1989-1992.  I do have enough background information to hopefully get some things right.  The company was founded by three people: Ed Iacobucci, Randy Wood, and Ronel Brittian.  Of the three, I only knew Ed and Randy personally.  By the time I started, Ronel was already gone (in 1993).  It is common knowledge from that time that Citrix was originally called Citrus Systems and needed to change its name based on a potential lawsuit with another company with the same name.  I have heard a few times that this other company had nothing to do with computers.

The original office was located in Richardson, Texas but no development ever took place there.  The office was quickly relocated to Coral Springs, Florida which happened to be Ed Iacobucci’s home base.  In the beginning the company was formed almost exclusively of developers.  At the time, this made sense because there was no product to sell, market, or support.  Many of the original developers left IBM to take a chance on a small nimble company led by Ed.  IBM was well known for being a bit stodgy and slow at the time.

Although not well documented, Citrix has always had a close relationship with Microsoft.  The original funding and license support came not from IBM but rather from Microsoft.  There were other supporters like Intel and of course the venture capitalists.  I had heard at one point that Microsoft owned 5% of Citrix at the beginning.  I think much of this was due to the respect of Ed Iacobucci in the industry.  I also suspect that Microsoft was trying to encourage growing this space in making OS/2 and NT multi-user.  It was far much easier to fund this kind of venture outside MS than inside. 

In general, the initial years were high times with high dreams.  There were promises of great wealth and fame to the developers that fulfilled the mission of shipping a multiuser OS/2 product (to be called Multiuser).

The developers under the leadership of Glen Hamblin forged ahead working long hours and over weekends.  The continued for at least a year and a half.  I have heard many joking references to this time as the “Death march”.

After this was completed, the next step was to drum up interest in the industry.  Because the developers had so believed the importance of what they had worked on, they were disappointed when almost no one came to their invitation only suite at the next computer convention.  They had realized much too late that the world did not see the relevance of their venture and therefore they were greatly disappointed.

People were buying Multiuser but it was no where near the volume needed to keep the company afloat.

The basic flaw was that the product would only run text-only OS/2 applications remotely.  It did not support DOS or Windows applications.  Even though it was based on OS/2, it did not support the few graphical OS/2 applications that did exist.  There were not enough people using text-only OS/2 applications to sell to.

This was a major setback in the company history.  It was severe enough that a wave of developers left the company in late 1992.  Even Glen Hamblin resigned.

The good news is that there was a new vision of what we could do about this time.  A shift was made to use OS/2 2.x technology which allowed for the running of DOS and Windows applications.  This was a major part of the success for the early Citrix history.  This product became known as WinView.

Article from Software Magazine 1990 

Citrix Systems Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., with its OS/2 development experience, is looking to add a key feature missing in the IBM/Microsoft Corp. version.

Citrix was founded in April 1989, by Edward Iacobucci, vice president and chief technical officer, who led the OS/2 design team at IBM from 1984 to 1989; Randall Wood, director of marketing, who managed the MS-DOS and OS/2 product lines of Data General Corp.; and veteran venture capitalist Ronel Brittian of Sevin, Rosen, Bayless Partners, chairman of Citrix. The company has raised $3 million in venture financing. Early this year, the company hired as chief executive Roger Roberts, a former marketing manager at Texas Instruments Inc.

The company then quickly hired Glen Hamblin as VP of product development. Hamblin had set up the IBM OS/2 performance organization and was release manager for OS/2 1.1. The full development team now includes 18 engineers, “all out of IBM, a very senior, experienced group,” said Iacobucci.

Development of the multiuser OS/2, called Citrix Multiuser, is virtually complete, with volume shipments for Intel Corp. 80386- and 80486-based microcomputers slated to begin by March of 1991.

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Posted in Citrix History
5 comments on “1989-1992 The very beginning
  1. Gonzalo says:

    Hey, can you talk about what it’s like working for Citrix today? The company is a lot bigger and more successful, and probably more organized, but have things gotten more beaurocratic, too? Also, I don’t think Florida has traditionally been a hot market for software developers, what are they doing to attract top talent? Thanks.

  2. jeffreymuir says:

    Things have changed dramatically since I first started. Instead of writing about it here I’ll need to start a new post.

    Citrix is much bigger today than it was closer to the beginning. I have heard that we have almost 3000 employees. It is easy to see that such a large company would need more management than one with only 50 employees.

    Traditionally it has always been difficult to convince candidates to come to Florida. It’s probably because not many developers think that Florida is a nice place to work in. The truth is that Florida has a great climate and that the heat can always be averted with the constant use of air conditioning.

    I think that the most negative aspect of South Florida is related on the focus on the aging population. People don’t want to spend money on schools or other family friendly things. That makes South Florida highly family intolerant. So, if you are a single devloper things are okay. If you have a family, you might not be so happy.

    Citrix has acquired several companies in California so it is now possible to work for Citrix from the Silicon Valley. I personally think that Citrix will eventually shift development focus to the West Coast because of the problem with hiring and keeping talent in Florida.

    There are places within Citrix that still act like a small company would. For example, Advanced Products Group is responsible for researching and developing new products much in the similar way to how the original Citrix team members would have approached it.

  3. Bildos says:

    Nice story. I’m waiting for continuing…

  4. Alan says:

    Hi Jeff. I enjoyed your article “1989-1992…” We’ve been a Citrix customer since “South Beach” (i.e. WinFrame 1.5). We have a small Citrix support team here, but I always enjoy discussing the history of Citrix and their relationship with Microsoft to anyone who cares to listen. Speaking of which, do you plan to write an article on the Citrix Microsoft relationship? In particular, the turbulent times around the WinFrame 2.0 (i.e. the NT 4.0 version) release (I mean non-release). This would be an interesting read. By the way, I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy of the WinFrame 2.0 CD. Any ideas if and where I might get one? Thanks.

  5. jeffreymuir says:

    Hi Alan,

    I was just thinking yesterday that it would be good to write about the Citrix/Microsoft relationship. Thanks for the request since it helps to confirm that it should be written about.

    As for WinFrame 2.0, there was never an official CD produced due to the licensing problems with Microsoft. I remember seeing a golden master on a burned CD with handwritten information but I never saw a real version of WinFrame 2.0. WinFrame 2.0 was basically thrown away as a result of selling the core bits to Microsoft.

    Internally Citrix still has a copy of it. It has limited access due to the high concentration of Microsoft code. Occassionally people will refer to it to better understand code that Citrix used to own that is now owned by Microsoft.

    It has been 10 years since work on WinFrame 2.0 was completed. It took more than a year for Microsoft to release Hydra (WTS) after they acquired the source base from Citrix.

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