Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

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9780887306297: Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

The true story behind the rise of a tyrannical genius, how he
transformed an industry, and why everyone is out to get him.

In this fascinating exposé, two investigative reporters trace the hugely successful career of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Part entrepreneur, part enfant terrible, Gates has become the most powerful -- and feared -- player in the computer industry, and arguably the richest man in America. In Hard Drive, investigative reporters Wallace and Erickson follow Gates from his days as an unkempt thirteen-year-old computer hacker to his present-day status as a ruthless billionaire CEO. More than simply a "revenge of the nerds" story though, this is a balanced analysis of a business triumph, and a stunningly driven personality. The authors have spoken to everyone who knows anything about Bill Gates and Microsoft -- from childhood friends to employees and business rivals who reveal the heights, and limits, of his wizardry. From Gates's singular accomplishments to his equally extraordinary brattiness, arrogance, and hostility (the atmosphere is so intense at Microsoft that stressed-out programmers have been known to ease the tension of their eighty-hour workweeks by exploding homemade bombs), this is a uniquely revealing glimpse of the person who has emerged as the undisputed king of a notoriously brutal industry.

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Review:

Hard Drive charts Gates's missteps as well as his successes: the failure of OS/2 and the embarrassing delays in bringing Windows to the marketplace; the highly publicized split with IBM, which then forged an alliance with Apple to battle Microsoft; the public relations fallout over various exploits of Gates; and the investigations by the Federal Trade Commission. Wallace and Erickson also examine the combative, often abrasive side of Gates's personality that has alienated many of Microsoft's rivals and even employees, and led to his being labeled "The Silicon Bully" by Business Month Magazine. They report:

In the early 80's, Microsoft's Multiplan lost out to Lotus 1-2-3 in the marketplace. According to one Microsoft programmer, a few of the key people working on DOS 2.0 had a saying at the time that "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run." They managed to code a few hidden bugs into DOS 2.0 that caused Lotus 1-2-3 to breakdown when it was loaded. "There were as few as three or four people who knew this was being done," the employee said. He felt the highly competitive Gates was the ringleader.

The first two female executives hired at Microsoft in 1985 were recruited to meet federal affirmative action guidelines so that the company could qualify for a lucrative Air Force contract. One source says,"They would say, 'Well, let's hire two women because we can pay them half as much as we will have to pay a man, and we can give them all this other crap work to do because they are women.' That's directly out of Bill's mouth...." Gates treated one of these executives so badly that she asked to be transferred away from him.

Microsoft managers used the company's e-mail system to secretly spy on employee work habits. Only those employees who worked weekends could collect bonuses. In time word got out and some employees logged into their e-mail on weekends with a modem from home so it would appear they had come in.

Review:

First unauthorized biography of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates reveals the true story behind America's youngest billionaire.

At the age of 37, with a net worth of over $8 billion, Bill Gates is the richest man in America, and Microsoft Corporation, which he cofounded in 1975, is currently the most successful software company. All should be right with Bill Gates's world. Yet two allies from the early years of Microsoft's stunning success have turned against the company, pre-trial hearings have just begun in Apple's $5 billion copyright infringement lawsuit, and IBM is fiercely trying to displace Microsoft's DOS with its own OS/2. More ominous still, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the House that Gates Built and could possibly break up Microsoft, as it did AT&T. How did Microsoft get to the top and will it stay there? To what extent does the Microsoft corporate personality reflect that of its eccentric and hard-driving chairman and CEO, Bill Gates?

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire is the first biography of the controversial Microsoft chairman. Despite Gate's attempt to discourage people from talking, authors James Wallace and Jim Erickson, reporters for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have interviewed his closest friends, associates, and former employees, as well as many of his business rivals, to provide a comprehensive portrait of this complex computer wunderkind, the company he made, and the industry he continues to shape. -- From the Publisher

In early days when Microsoft was located in Albuquerque, after long, nighttime programming sessions, Gates would relax by speeding through the foothills in his Porsche 911. On a few late nights Gates and a friend would go to a road construction site and, after learning by trial and error to operate the complex machinery, drive them around. One night they held a bulldozer race (although neither could claim to be the winner) and another time Gates nearly backed over his Porsche.

Under intense pressure by Gates to ship the long overdue Windows software, employee dedication quickly turned to fanaticism. One of the Windows testers showed up at the office with a sleeping bag. For a month he camped in his office working around the clock and sleeping only when he couldn't stay awake. The microkids found diversion by building bombs, setting off rockets, and holding full-volume jam sessions which brought the police. One ex-Microsoft employee said, "you felt you were at the center of the universe. That was the motivation, that and just trying to get clean code out there. It was an invigorating feeling to be working for Microsoft. And all this pounding by Steve Ballmer, and yanking by Bill, was the price you paid to be there." --

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