Microsoft Office, an all-in-one "suite" of work software programs, last year became the top-selling software application based on revenues, eclipsing standby standalones such as WordPerfect word processor and Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.
Though rival suites have appeared, Office last year commanded 85% of the $896 million in U.S. suite sales, says Dataquest, a market research company.
Office hardly is an overnight success.
Microsoft introduced the first version in 1988; sales didn't take off until it offered a great benefit-product integration, with the goal of a word processor, spreadsheet, database and graphics package working seamlessly.
"What we've seen over the past 12 to 24 months is our ability to deliver consistent applications that work together like it's one application," says Robbie Bach, 32, group product manager for Office.
Microsoft, the world's biggest personal-computer software marketer, wins big because customers become committed to the marketer's breadth of products, and Office moves the company beyond incessant price and feature wars in the standalone applications market.
Just a year ago, a majority of Microsoft applications advertising, and its marketing people, supported individual products like the Excel spreadsheet. Now, Office is the center of ads, with all applications marketing staffers reporting to Mr. Bach.
In the fiscal year ended June 30, Office for the first time accounted for a majority of Microsoft applications sales.
"The biggest thing," he says, "is getting our messages very clear and very crisp."
That means spending a lot of time in the Office suite.