How the Web Was Won
 
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How the Web Was Won [Hardcover]

Paul Andrews
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a brilliant--and, at times, overwhelming--display of research and perspicacity, Paul Andrews chronicles Microsoft's internal and public battles to adapt to Internet technology and fight the browser wars. He starts in 1991: the Internet is barely a blip on the company radar. Meanwhile, 22-year-old new hire J Allard is asked by Microsoft's No. 2 man, Steve Ballmer, to "make the pain go away" with TCP/IP, the standard Internet protocol. It's just Allard's second day on the job, and he realizes that the software giant doesn't get it: interoperability between networks and the Internet is key to Microsoft's future. He begins a grassroots effort to raise Internet consciousness, eventually distributing a widely read 17-page memo titled "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet." Higher up, Bill Gates's technical assistant, Steven Sinofsky, gets snowed in at technically progressive Cornell University. He's stunned to witness a student body that's already devoted to a fledgling Internet, and writes home: "Cornell is WIRED." After intense internal debate (and more than a few late nights), Gates stops the engines and changes course to pursue integration of Windows and an Internet browser called Explorer.

Andrews--a personal-technology columnist for the neighboring Seattle Times--has actually layered several books into one. In the first, he writes scores of fascinating profiles on the Internet idealists, architects, and managers who devoted "Microsoft Hours" to redirect the company's focus. In the second, he reports on external battles against foes such as Netscape and Sun Microsystems. In addition, he explores the hundreds of technological developments (occasionally to the point of distraction) that flourished during this high-tech revolution. And, finally, he comments throughout on what led the Department of Justice to file the largest antitrust action since the breakup of AT&T. Andrews's coverage of this last issue is slanted heavily in Microsoft's favor, but is thorough enough to deflect most accusations of bias. Although the Web is far from won, Microsoft's ability to turn its ship around is certainly a victory. --Rob McDonald

From Publishers Weekly

That Microsoft was late getting onto the Web is a common piece of corporate lore. For Andrews, who for more than 10 years has covered Microsoft for the Seattle Times and is the coauthor of the balanced Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, the nuts and bolts of how the company has rebounded to dominate the browser market is a milestone of corporate history. As such, he treats it lovingly, lingering over memos, basking in the company's high-stakes, big-money energy and spotlighting various corporate players as they maneuver the monolith into pole position. Andrews makes clear that Microsoft had been thinking at least peripherally about Web-like technology since 1990. Even before rival browser-purveyor Netscape went public in mid-1995 (creating a $3 billion company), the race had already started. The story is familiar: technologies crop up as challengers, only to fall or be absorbed. Internet Explorer becomes part of a desktop bundle. Antitrust suits are fended off. IE becomes something of a standard. Andrews's minute descriptionsAthough often slow movingAof the technology and of the problem-solving approaches of Microsoft and its rivals will fascinate tech-heads and intrigue the uninitiated. Yet, as Andrews notes, Microsoft's victory may not be permanent: the software giant is threatened by AOL's purchase of rival Netscape and its alliance with operating-system competitor Sun Microsystems, by the "open-source" movement that advocates giving users direct access to program code, and by the government's ongoing antitrust action. The notoriously volatile technology business may yet render at least the title of this book premature. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

How Microsoft triumphed; from the Seattle Times columnist for technology.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Microsoft was so late in seeing the potential of the Internet that it didn't get a domain name (which identifies a company's location on the Internet) until 1991. On the other hand, its competitor, Apple, has had a domain name since 1987. But Microsoft quickly made up for lost time and four years later dominated the market for Internet software to such an extent that it provoked the scrutiny of the Justice Department and was targeted for an antitrust action. Andrews, coauthor of Gates (1993), chronicles the internal debates and machinations that brought one of the most powerful and profitable software makers to the Internet. The effort to bring Windows to the Net was led by a new Microsoft techie, recently graduated from college, who faced the task of overcoming Microsoft's and Bill Gates' skepticism about the commercial potential of the Internet. Andrews describes the cultural dichotomy of an open, freewheeling Internet accustomed to free access to software as well as information and a profit-driven, proprietary Microsoft. The debates centered on whether to adapt the Internet protocols for file sharing or to put effort into a proprietary online service just as the Internet was emerging as a major communications force and moving away from its academic and government origins. After three years of reporting and more than 100 interviews, Andrews brings humor and drama to this narrative account. This is a riveting look at the strong wills, huge egos, and technological and business prowess that engineered Windows' dominance of Internet software, making the Net more accessible to millions and making millions for Microsoft and Gates at the same time. Vanessa Bush

From Kirkus Reviews

The detailed story of how Microsoft created a substantive position for itself in the rapidly growing world of the Internet. Other books have already covered Microsofts meteoric rise and massive presence in the computer software industry; Seattle Times technology columnist Andrews himself co-authored a business bio of the companys leader, Bill Gates (Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, not reviewed). This time, he turns to Microsoft's decision to make itself a major player on the Internet, based on the companys belief that the World Wide Web would offer big opportunities for future profits. In a chatty and personal style, Andrews introduces the cast of characters assigned to this task, starting with those who had the initial realization that something big was brewing with this universal network. Bits and pieces of information are offered about how software is created, but Andrewss relentless main mission is to portray Microsoft's efforts to enter the Internet era as mortal combat with competitors rather than creative programming. Hyperbole often obscures the subject. We read that ``the earth shook'' at a Microsoft news conference, for instance, and that one of Microsoft's competitors is a ``sworn archenemy.'' Still, software developers will feel kinship with the deadlines, crises, and interdepartmental fighting that accompany the story, and Microsoft aficionados may enjoy learning more about the workings of the company (including product and management failures) and about the expansive team of professionals who get as much credit and emphasis as the boss himself. Fan-club reading for Microsoft supporters. ($75,000 ad/promo; author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

Critical acclaim for Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry--and Made Himself the Richest Man in the World:

"The most complete and colorful account yet of the meteoric rise of the nation's No. 1 personal computer software company."
--Business Week

"Meticulously researched . . . well-written, with much of the drama and suspense of a novel."
--The Washington Post

"A hot read. . . . The good stuff begins on the first page."
--Fortune

"Fast-paced, informative, riveting."
--The Wall Street Journal

From the Inside Flap

The inside story of how a small band of agitators at Microsoft staged the stunning turnaround that transformed the company from an Internet laggard into such a dominant force that it was accused of monopolizing the industry.

1993. Microsoft's Windows software ruled the desktops of America. Nine out of ten personal computers ran the operating system, and most applications--from word processors to spreadsheets--couldn't function without it. When Bill Gates peered into Microsoft's crystal ball, he saw a world of Windows.

Then the Internet burst on the scene, and suddenly Gates's Windows-oriented future didn't look so bright. The Internet ran on UNIX, not Windows. The World Wide Web, not Windows, linked information in a global electronic library. A new software program called Mosaic, not Windows, made finding and reading Web documents as easy as skimming a magazine. Moreover, companies with little stake in Windows--Netscape, America Online, Sun Microsystems--were laying first claim to the Internet frontier.

The Internet was the future of computing--and the world's largest software company wasn't ready for it. Yet four years later, Microsoft's Internet metamorphosis was so complete that the Department of Justice slapped the company with the broadest antitrust action since the breakup of AT&T. In How the Web Was Won, veteran Seattle Times journalist Paul Andrews chronicles, for the first time, the most remarkable business turnaround of the 1990s: the story of Microsoft's turbulent journey from Windows to the Web--and of the handful of Internet believers who led the charge.

Taking the reader into the mind of Microsoft, Andrews reveals how the company struggled first to comprehend and then capitalize on the Net. How twenty-two-year-old Internet hound J Allard was shocked to learn that nobody at Microsoft seemed to know anything about networking computers when he arrived in late 1991. How Steve Ballmer, Gates's Harvard buddy and second in command at Microsoft, lit the Internet fuse with a head-scratching e-mail in December 1993. How Gates's technical assistant, Steven Sinofsky, discovered in early 1994 that Cornell University, his alma mater, was more "wired" than the world's most successful software company. And how by mid-1995, awash in the rising tide of Netscape, America Online, Java, and the Web, Bill Gates assigned the Internet the highest level of importance, launching an effort that, in a matter of months, would provoke the Justice Department, competitors, and industry analysts to warn that Microsoft could someday rule the Internet.

Based on three years of reporting and more than 100 interviews with the prime movers driving Microsoft's Internet strategy and deployment, How the Web Was Won captures the explosive drama and high-stakes gamesmanship of Microsoft's epic struggle for Internet supremacy. The result is an illuminating portrait of a software empire under siege and an intimate look at the fiery competitiveness that kindled its dramatic reversal of fortune.

From the Back Cover

Critical acclaim for Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry--and Made Himself the Richest Man in the World:

"The most complete and colorful account yet of the meteoric rise of the nation's No. 1 personal computer software company."
--Business Week

"Meticulously researched . . . well-written, with much of the drama and suspense of a novel."
--The Washington Post

"A hot read. . . . The good stuff begins on the first page."
--Fortune

"Fast-paced, informative, riveting."
--The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Coauthor of the 1993 national bestseller Gates, Paul Andrews has watched Microsoft as a Seattle Times reporter since the company moved to suburban Bellevue from Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1979. Since 1989 he has written one of the nation's longest-running weekly personal technology columns, "User Friendly." Andrews has won numerous awards for his coverage of Microsoft over the past decade. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Cecile, and bichon frise, Maggie.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Nightmare

You would never have known it from his wealth, fame, and reputation, but Bill Gates was a worried, worried man.

On April 30, 1991, the software king isolated himself for a week at the family compound he had built along the southeastern shore of Hood Canal in Washington State's Puget Sound. The canal, a long, narrow stretch of inlet that ran the length of the sound, was one of Gates's favorite spots on earth. Growing up in Seattle, Gates had spent some of his happiest times visiting Hood Canal, going water-skiing, attending summer camp, staying with his grandmother Adelle Maxwell, whom he and the rest of the family called Gam, at her summer cabin there. After she passed away, Gates had built as a monument to his grandmother Gateaway, a four-house compound on three and a half acres, for family and executive retreats. An hour and a half's drive from Seattle, Gateaway was well known to Microsofties as the site for Microgames, an annual summertime adventure competition where teams of players matched wits and motor skills in a sort of extreme games for the brainy set. The compound also hosted periodic strategic planning sessions for Microsoft's inner circle, guys like Steve Ballmer, Paul Maritz, Jeff Raikes, Brad Silverberg, Jim Allchin. And Gates liked to bring in friends like megainvestor Warren Buffett and Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham for occasional get-togethers.

That week, Gates was alone. There was something calming yet energizing about the canal. The damp air seemed to enclose you in a cocoon of concentration and focus. Your mind cleared out. Issues and challenges became more defined. Ideas flowed more easily. It was amazing how when you eluded the noise and demands of the everyday world, you could grab hold of the things that really mattered. Drilling down, augering in-call it what you wanted, the misty isolation of Hood Canal really allowed you to bring things into focus.

Gates had been poring over a stack of technology-oriented reading material-memos, white papers, journals, magazines, and books-early that afternoon. The software king loved to read. The bookshelves in the living room of his compound quarters held some of his recent perusings. There was Running Critical by Patrick Tyler, examining the Cold War power struggle between Admiral Hyman Rickover and General Dynamics. There was Robert Lacey's look at Ford and God Knows, the bleak Joseph Heller novel. The Great Getty, by Bob Lenzner, on the oil baron turned art patron; Honorable Justice by Sheldon Novick, on Oliver Wendell Holmes; The Second Creation, a look at twentieth-century physics; The Bishop's Boys, Tom Crouch's study of the Wright brothers, and Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis's look at Wall Street. Gates gravitated toward historical biographies. Part of his fascination derived from his own sense of history and his role in one of the great revolutions of the twentieth century: the Information Age. By any measure, Gates and Microsoft were successes-amazingly, astonishingly so. Founded in 1975 by Gates and his Seattle private-school chum Paul Allen, Microsoft had grown sixteen years later into an international software empire generating $1.8 billion in revenues and 25 percent after-tax profits. Microsoft's third version of Windows, issued a year earlier on May 22, 1990, had sold 9 million copies and was well on its way to supplanting MS-DOS as the bestselling software program ever written. Within five months Gates, thirty-five years old and worth $4.8 billion, would ride the success of Microsoft and Windows to the No. 2 position on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, a distinction Gates considered more a distraction than an honor.

To the world at large, Microsoft was a mighty kingdom, yes. But to Gates, that just made it a bigger target. The way he saw things, Microsoft was under assault from every front. And if the company relaxed its defense for a moment, if it made the wrong strategic decision or pursued the wrong technology, the whole thing could go up in smoke tomorrow. It was one reason he liked to tell executives at Microsoft, "For every piece of good news you send me, tell me a piece of bad news." Gates mentally ticked off the challenges Microsoft faced. First there was IBM, upset about the success of Windows versus OS/2-the big, next-generation PC operating system that Big Blue wanted to use to supplant Microsoft's DOS and Windows. The delicate partnership that had defined personal computing through the 1980s had in the fall of 1990 finally dissipated in a miasma of distrust and reprobation. "IBM always had these projects to wipe us out, so every company retreat we're saying, 'It looks like IBM is going to try and replace us,'" Gates would recall. "What can we do to prevent that? What's our strategy once that happens?"

The two companies were still working together under a three-year agreement to share some technologies, but IBM's strategy was for OS/2 to supersede Windows by the time the agreement expired in 1993.

Besides Big Blue, there was Big Brother to worry about. The Federal Trade Commission was investigating possible antitrust violations related to the way Microsoft licensed DOS to computer manufacturers. Then there was the Apple lawsuit, filed three years earlier and still hanging fire. Perhaps worst of all, Microsoft was having to bear the ignominy of being crushed by Novell, the Provo, Utah, PC networking software company. For eight years Microsoft had been trying to come up with a good networking strategy. And each year it seemed to fall deeper and deeper off the chart. Starting in 1989 Microsoft had made overtures of a merger with Novell. But talks were desultory, and Gates held little hope the two companies would get together. Networking was an embarrassment, one that Gates repeatedly used as a reminder when someone started talking about how big and powerful and dominant Microsoft was becoming.

Gates thought about a memo he had been reading by John Walker, the founder of Autodesk. Warning his wildly successful computer-aided design company of complacency, Walker depicted a nightmare scenario where Microsoft decided to compete in the market Autodesk had built an empire upon. Gates considered Walker's notion irrelevant; getting Microsoft into CAD might spread the company too thin. On the other hand, Gates considered the notion of nightmare scenarios all too relevant. Unless he and his company could make the leap to the next paradigm, Gates mused, Microsoft would be tomorrow's WordStar. When the IBM PC had come out, WordStar was the No. 1 word processor, with something like 90 percent market share. Everyone knew what control-KD did. You could ask out loud, "How do you boldface?" And someone across the room would call out the command. WordStar had been the standard, the market leader, the dominant force in word processing.

And where was WordStar today?

If Microsoft continued to execute well on its core strategy, the company would do well, Gates knew. He could see DOS and Windows and Microsoft's desktop applications-Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and on down the line-continuing to thrive in their traditional market, the desktop computer. It was a good business, one that had brought Microsoft much of its success. The operating system standards Microsoft had created-first DOS, on the IBM PC and "clone" computers, and then Windows-empowered computer users to create and customize information in new and exciting ways. PCs had exploded in power, functionality, and popularity throughout the 1980s, putting the Gates-Allen vision of a computer on every desk and in every home ever more closely within reach. By 1990 computers were selling at the clip of more than 20 million a year. But peering down the road ahead, Gates saw a looming dead end. Ultimately the model of standalone computers on desks and in homes had a fundamental limitation that would prevent it from continuing to transform society. To be truly useful, to become as popular and effective as television and radio and the telephone, computers had to be linked together somehow. Like people, computers could get a lot done on their own. But like people, they became a real social force and powerful change agent when they networked together.

And networking, Gates knew, was Microsoft's bête noir.
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