David Bank's Breaking Windows
offers a scathing inside look at the past few tumultuous years at the Microsoft Corporation. Bank, who covers the company for The Wall Street Journal
, bases this well-written tale on interviews he has conducted with most major players (including Bill Gates), along with boxes of e-mails and other documents that "provided an unprecedented glimpse into strategic debates and internal decision-making processes of a company that had long restricted outside access to its insular corporate culture." Through them he shows how Microsoft, which always put software above everything--and in more recent years made Windows its number-one priority--has scrambled and squabbled as first the Internet and then the U.S. government forced major directional changes and significant internal reevaluations.
Bank's story crackles with immediacy as he brings readers directly into the action with central characters like Gates, who "created a company that remained uniquely a projection of himself"; Steve Ballmer, the close friend of Gates and former sales-force leader elevated to CEO; Jim Allchin, a senior vice president who heads the Windows division and remains a staunch advocate for its dominance; and Brad Silverberg, another VP who launched Windows 3.1 and 95 before forming the Internet division and fervently trying to turn the company in its direction. Those who can't get enough on the behemoth from Redmond will find this an illuminating addition to their bookshelf. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
Wall Street Journal reporter Bank charts the downward spiral of Microsoft's public image: over the past five years, the company went from fearless New Economy pioneer to a predator vilified by its competitors and brought to trial in a landmark antitrust action. For those hungry to know how golden boy Bill Gates could end up looking like a defensive old-school monopolist, Bank has provided a hard-hitting yet evenhanded account. Interviews with all the major players from Gates on down (along with texts of flaming e-mails that singed the wings of such loyal allies as Ben Slivka and Brad Silverberg) lend support to Bank's argument that the debate within Microsoft over competing Windows and Internet strategies set the stage for the public spectacle of the trial and the mass exodus of talented employees. Rich and juicy details of internal company squabbles cast an unnerving dysfunctional-family pall over the Microsoft story at times. (Gates, unable to get his usual way with someone, once mused, "Something happens to a guy when his net worth passes $100 million.") Yet Bank's broad industry knowledge leads him to provocative conclusions that resonate beyond the story of a single company. Pointing out that Intel and Cisco also faced antitrust challenges but were able, through savvy negotiation, to escape the public relations disaster that come with a trial, he argues that although Gates understood the value of interoperability imposed by the Internet, he held on too long to his determination to maintain a long-term lock over his customers. (Aug.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.