There is a long term relationship between Citrix and Microsoft. It started in 1989 when Citrix was founded. Without Microsoft’s backing in funds and licensing, it probably would not have been possible for Citrix to start. I have heard that this initial relationship was largely due to the reputation of Ed Iacobucci.
At the time, Microsoft was still a believer in OS/2 and I’m sure that Ed’s idea (multi-user OS/2) still made a lot of sense. I’m sure Microsoft would have been interested enough to eventually release this version of OS/2 if the relationship with IBM had not gone so badly. Of course, things did not go to plan and IBM and Microsoft did have a divorce which actually caused a problem for Citrix as well.
Because OS/2 was no longer a Microsoft focus, Citrix became less of a focus as well. During the time between 1991 and 1994, Citrix was really off the Microsoft radar screen. Funnyly enough, this gave Citrix some breathing space because we didn’t need to worry about Microsoft would think since we were based on OS/2. On the other side of the coin, it made it harder to convince customers that it was okay to base their businesses on an OS/2-based product. Over time, we learned to stop pushing the OS/2 message and instead focus on what our WinView product could do.
At one stage (1993) we were actually doing some life cycle maintenance of OS/2 1.3 for Microsoft. I believe we had some kind of contract to do work on the real OS/2 for Microsoft in order to receive our OS/2 license. I never saw the agreement but I did hear that Microsoft wanted two people assigned to working on OS/2 issues. I remember fixing a couple of problems for them.
The relationship started to change in 1993 when Citrix decided to make Windows NT multiuser. Obviously Microsoft was to become very interested in the outcome of this.
One thing that might not be common knowledge is that Citrix had full source access to OS/2 and NT during most of its early history. In fact, some people (Life Cycle Maintenance) still do have access to Windows code even today. In the early days, full access was assumed and it meant that Citrix could change anything it wanted to in order to make the OS multiuser.
The model was to ship a different version of OS/2 or NT code that would look and feel like the original OS but it would support multiple users at the same time.
This was a bit of a problem related to service packs and hotfixes. If Microsoft released a new service pack, it was a big deal to merge the two code bases together to produce a new update. It wouldn’t be until Windows 2000 that the multiuser extensions would be included in the mainstream product .
Anyways, the point is that Citrix had easy access to changing the operating systems and did so.
The tension began to appear in late 1995. When Citrix first released WinFrame 1.5, Microsoft almost instantly recognized the potential value. I think they saw their customers thinking about moving over to using WinFrame for certain tasks.
By 1997, things had changed considerably. Citrix had already done the work to convert NT 4.0 to be multiuser. The previous version was based on NT 3.51. Citrix did have rights to ship products based on NT 3.51 but not NT 4.0. Citrix made a mistake in not guaranteeing access to NT 4.0 before starting work on WinFrame 2.0. Microsoft denied access to the NT 4.0 market. Within a short time the relationship became very rocky. Microsoft was threatening to do the work itself and basically told Citrix that it was in its best interest to sell the multiuser code to them.
After a few months on a roller coaster ride in negotiations, Citrix agreed to sell the multiuser code to Microsoft. After this, Citrix would only have ICA to base its products on. It would no longer be able to change the core multiuser code.
Microsoft released WTS (Windows Terminal Server) in 1998 based on the Citrix code for NT 4.0. In one way, this was good for business since it sanctioned the market from Microsoft. In other ways, it was sad that Citrix no longer had this core technology.
I think I would summarize this as this: It is very difficult to trust Microsoft for any long term relationships. Eventually, Microsoft will show its true intentions and this is always a reflection of self interest.
The trend since 1997 has been further erosion of the Citrix market towards Microsoft. I will write more about this in a future post.