Stardock was founded by 20 year old
college student Brad Wardell to help pay for school.
Incorporated in 1993, Stardock focused on developing software for IBM’s OS/2
operating system. Wardell wrote the OS/2 game Galactic Civilizations between
taking electrical engineering classes and teaching digital logic lab, and
helping run the university Macintosh lab.
Galactic Civilizations was released
in Fall 1994. The game was a critical success and convinced Wardell upon
graduating from college to make Stardock his career. By 1996, Stardock had
grown to be a leading developer in the OS/2 market. By teaming up with fellow
OS/2 developers such as Kurt Westerfeld, Stardock branched into developing
corporate solutions as well such as Object Desktop for OS/2. Its influence on
OS/2 was so great that IBM asked Stardock to be closely involved with OS/2 Warp
4 (the default OS/2 Warp 4 desktop layout was designed by Stardock along with
elements of its GUI).
In 1997, Stardock began to
transition its software development to Windows. The "OS Wars" between Windows
and OS/2 were drawing to a close with the world largely standardizing on Windows
for the desktop. To fund its transition to Windows, Stardock developed a .NET
concept in 1998 called "Stardock.NET". Its goal was to provide software as a
service in which users would subscribe for a period of time and gain access to
its technologies that it would develop on the fly.
The first project completed under
this new concept was called ObjectDesktop.Net (popularly known as simply Object
Desktop for Windows). When a user purchased Object Desktop, they would receive
the software already available for it plus new enhancements and additions to it
for the subsequent year. The service was a hit and helped launch Stardock into
the Windows market in a big way.
To help fund Object Desktop, Wardell and his
team developed a business strategy game called Entrepreneur. It was a game in
which one starts their own company and competes in a chosen market by designing,
distributing, and marketing products. It was a commercial hit and helped ensure
that Stardock was able to adequately market Object Desktop's release on
The success of Object Desktop on
Windows dwarfed Stardock's earlier efforts. Because Object Desktop is
essentially a suite of desktop extensions, its components are also available
separately and by 2001 were in use by over 5 million users worldwide. This
success influenced the Windows market substantially. Object Desktop, in essence,
allows users to "Skin" the Windows OS. Other developers began to license
Stardock's technology for use in their own software.
In fact, in 2002, Microsoft itself
released Windows XP, an OS with a "skinnable" user interface. Stardock worked
closely with Microsoft during the development of Windows XP to give XP users an
unprecedented level of customization options. During this period, Stardock had
also launched a customization website called GalCiv2.com. By the end of
2002, GalCiv2.com had become one of the most popular websites on the
Internet with over 2 million monthly visitors.
In early 2003, Stardock's technology had become increasingly
visible thanks to high profile licensing agreements. Movie studioes such as
Touchstone had begun using Object Desktop to create the "futuristic" computer
interfaces seen in their movies (such as "The Recruit"). Nintendo licensed
Object Desktop to create a "Game Cube" desktop for their customers to download.
Nvidia and its partners now include an OEM version of WindowBlinds with most
of their video cards and includes an nVidia visual style for the entire OS. And
Microsoft itself licensed Object Desktop to help market the X-Box game
In March of 2003, Stardock released
a remake of the game that started it all, Galactic Civilizations as part of
its 10 year anniversary. The game quickly climbed to the top of the charts
making it to #5 on Amazon.com's best seller list and achieving both critical and
commercial success in other media as well.
Today, Stardock is spread across
the globe. It looks for the best and brightest from around the world. This team
works together via the Internet. While the core of Stardock is located in an
office complex in Livonia Michigan, nearly half the staff is located remotely.
This team continues forward on creating PC software that allows both
corporations and consumers to customize their Windows PCs. It occasionally still
releases a new PC game now and then.
Stardock leads the way in
developing technologies that extend the base feature set of Windows. Its
business software is used by millions and its entertainment software is both
critically and commercially acclaimed. Its founder and CEO, Brad Wardell, has
seen his company grow out of his dorm room into a multi-million dollar
corporation with employees and contractors on 4 continents. With a high level of
profitability and brisk growth, Stardock is poised for even greater endeavors in
the coming years.