Microsoft At Work

Well, this was a wild goose chase of a read. J. B. Crawford dove into the history of something I’ve never heard of – Microsoft At Work – and came away with a story that’ while clearer thanks to his research, is still frustratingly nebulous. I’m still not entirely sure what Microsoft At Work really was, but I think it had the goal of running Windows on communications devices like faxes, to make it easier to share and work on documents across various devices. Crawford did a lot of digging, and eventually settles on what he thinks might be a description of what MAW really consisted of.

I am being a bit dismissive for effect. MAW was more ambitious than just installing Windows on a grape. The effort included a unified communications protocol for the control of office machines, including printers, for which a whole Microsoft stack was envisioned. This built on top of the Windows Printing System, a difficult-to-search-for project that apparently predated MAW by a short time, enough so that Windows Printing System products were actually on the market when MAW was announced—MAW products were, we will learn, very much not.


MAW devices like the Ricoh IFS77 ran 16-bit Windows 3.1 with a new GUI intended to appear more modern while reducing resource requirements. Some reporters at the time noted that Microsoft was cagey about the supported architectures, I suspect they were waiting on ports to be completed. The fax machine was probably x86, though, as there’s little evidence MAW actually ran on anything else.

↫ J. B. Crawford

The ’90s were a wild time, especially as Microsoft, and this MAW project seems to have ’90s written all over it, but I’d still love to learn a lot more about this. I hope this article will bring out some former Microsoft execs or employees who can give us more details, and possibly even some code. I want to know how this works and what it did.

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