The development of the software that would later become PowerPoint began in 1984. The project was led by Robert Gaskins at a Silicon Valley startup called Forethought. The original product description was called “Presentation Graphics for Overhead Projection.” Development focused on the Mac platform.
However, the team needed additional money to further fund development. This became the first investment for Apple’s venture fund called the Strategic Investment Group. Then Apple CEO John Skully reportedly said “We see desktop presentation as potentially a bigger market for Apple than desktop publishing.”
The intention was to launch the product under the name Presenter. However, that name was not available. They considered “SlideMaker” and “OverheadMaker.” According to Gaskins, he randomly came up with the term “powerpoint” in the shower. While not anyone’s first choice, his colleague Glenn Hobin had coincidentally seen an airport sign with the words “POWER POINT”). Fate directed them to keep the name. It was changed to a single word with an upper-case P to be consistent with the Mac software naming convention.
PowerPoint was introduced in April 1987 exclusively for Mac computers. Concurrently, Microsoft had initiated an internal project to create presentation software. They contemplated an acquisition to speed up the process. When the idea of the Forethought purchase was brought to Bill Gates, he responded “No, no, no, no, no, that’s just a feature of Microsoft Word, just put it into Word.”
To his credit, Gates listened to the team. Based on an initial 10,000 unit sales success, Microsoft purchased the company three months later (July 1987) for $14M. This marked Microsoft’s first significant acquisition. Within two years, it was integrated into the Office suite (1989 for Mac, 1990 for Windows) and the rest is history.
Over the past few decades, PowerPoint’s market share has been as high as 95%. While Apple’s Keynote and Google Slides have chipped away at PowerPoint’s market dominance. it is believed more than 35 million PPT presentations are still made every day by an estimated 500 million users worldwide.