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Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft Hardcover – April 19, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The virtual world he imagined is now as real as concrete ... the very fabric of a twenty-first century that he and a tiny club of others literally invented. Shy, humble, brilliant ... Paul Allen's intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page. Bono Paul's natural curiosity will always guide him into uncharted waters. Whether it's a newfangled device called the personal computer; exploring the bottom of the sea or deep space; music, movies, and museums; or perhaps his most significant adventure so far-the human brain-two things are certain: It won't be the same afterward, and it will be an extraordinary journey. Peter Gabriel Paul is a true adventurer in every sense of the word and, as a friend, he is both loyal and generous of spirit. His ideas have helped shape the world we live in, and witnessing the way his mind works is like watching a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo: you have no idea how he does it, but it blows your mind. Dave Stewart This son of Oklahoma, by way of Seattle, electrocuted a classmate, soldered his skin, gassed the family pet, purposely crashed systems, dove in Dumpsters for coffee-stained printouts, and went on to create the engine that changed the world. Dan Ackroyd --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Paul Allen is the billionaire technologist and philanthropist who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is the chairman of Vulcan Inc. and founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, and is co-owner of the Seattle Sounders pro soccer team. He lives on Mercer Island, Washington.

Visit www.paulallen.com


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; UNABRIDGED VERSION edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843825
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jaewoo Kim VINE VOICE on April 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book details Paul Allen's story on the beginning of Microsoft and his relationship with Bill Gates. The 2nd half of the book deals with his sport teams (TrailBlazers and Seahawks), space planes, investments, life as a wealthy mogul, and recent events.

Contrary to the press reports, this book draws a neutral portrait of Bill Gates. He is both highly praised and criticized. The book truly delivers an unvarnished view of Bill Gates and the beginnings of Microsoft. If you are into tech-history, this book should not be missed.

I think the title "Idea Man" is spot-on. Paul is the founding Visionary of Microsoft. He had the world-changing ideas and inspirations. But it was mostly Bill Gates who sorted them out and drove Paul Allen and rest of Microsoft's employees to execute those ideas into a reality. It is important to note that game changing ideas at Microsoft were somewhat lacking after Paul Allen left Microsoft. Instead, Microsoft became more like Bill Gates, an entity that is ruthless, sucessful, and technically brilliant. Yet, Microsoft lacked a vision and played mostly catchup to other visionary companies and ideas (Netscape, Apple, smartPhones, tablets, game consoles etc). I am convinced that Microsoft may have been a different and a more visionary company if Paul Allen had stayed.

I have also read the two books written by Bill Gates. In both books, Bill Gates gives strong endorsement and credit to Paul Allen for the co-founding of Microsoft. The two men have known each other for over 40 years and grew up together. The bond between the two seems very deep.

1)This book is written in an extremely fluid style. I am not sure if Paul hired a ghostwriter, but if the book was mostly first-hand written, then I am impressed.
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Allen is a strange renaissance-man type nerd, and he has a mostly interesting tale to tell. Here were the ups and downs of his tale to me:

- The first half of the book is more engaging than the second
The book is really about three different phases of his life. The first two phases cover the first half of the book. In the first phase is his childhood, discovery of his passion for computers and forming a friendship with Gates through a common love of computer programming. The second phase is the creation of Microsoft and subsequent struggles with Bill as the company grows.

Paul left MS before it went public, and in a few short years his stock options turned him into a multi-billionaire. Adrift without a purpose and lots of money, the second half of the book covers his investments into mostly unprofitable ventures as he explores whatever strikes his fancy. He likes basketball, so he buys a basketball team. He still wants to make a mark as a solo visionary in technology, so he starts a technology think tank. He's fascinated by space so he funds the first commercial space flight. He likes movies so he gets involved in the creation of DreamWorks... and well, a whole lot of other things, as well. Some of these are more interesting than others. Some of them venture into total nerdy detail which one will only find fascinating if they're equally obsessed with the topic.

2. Paul's a good logical writer and doesn't hold back from sharing his (or others) flaws, but his logical approach tends to keep real feeling out of his story.
The most engaging parts are about his relationship with Bill. It is pretty much the only area where some much less analytical insights are provided.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend the first 30% of this book for anyone in the tech field who wants an insider's view of the guts of starting a software business in the early days. There is some candid insight into Gates' and Allen's personalities and in my perspective, sheds some light on why some things about Silicon Valley culture are the way they are--some of the traditions, norms, mores, and such were clearly birthed at Microsoft (and to a lesser degree Xerox Parc and HP) and seeded to all those companies that followed. Beyond that, with some exceptions (the discussion on winning the X Prize, for example), I felt the book devolved into a cross between "I'm a billionaire and still don't feel fulfilled" and "then, I played guitar with Mick Jagger." I stopped about 80% of the way through and have no desire to finish.
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Format: Hardcover
I liked this book from beginning to end. I thought what he wrote about Gates was fair and nothing as bad as what some of the press on the book made it out to be. Sounded like a friend, co-worker relationship to me. What I found really interesting was he tells what he does with his money in life. I found it more fascinating to read that and to see how much more rounded he is than anyone would think. I always wonder what do the truly wealthy do and he tells how he lost and how he has made his money. I think the most interesting thing he is into is the medical research. Seems like he would be a great guy to work for. Couldnt put the book down.
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A strange coincidence set the stage for my interest in this book, but more about that later.

I always approach autobiographies with trepidation - many are either boring, shallow attempts at whitewashing, or obnoxious rants. Fortunately, this autobiography is not among those.

As an Amiga fan turned Linux fan, I have some serious issues with Microsoft and its behavior. However, as I know a little bit about Allen and had been considerably impressed by a brief news clip of him playing Hendrix riffs, I was willing to suspend my prejudice and see what he had to say about himself. (Anyone who loves Hendrix that much deserves a serious hearing, IMHO.)

The book begins with some facts and stories about Allen's childhood and his meeting Bill Gates at a private school in the Seattle area. Intermixed with stories of his personal introduction to technology and computer programming, Allen also treats us to some history of the personal computer revolution and the march of technology in the last four decades. Being roughly the same age as Allen, his stories about the development of technology and music resonate very strongly with me, and lend that much more of an air of honesty to the book, at least for me.

He takes us through the ups and downs of his friendship and partnership with Gates, the ups and downs of Microsoft and his post-Microsoft business ventures, and his very personal battles with cancer and the loss of his father. He is not excessively detailed, nor overly shallow in his narrative, but manages a good balance between the two. Since this is an autobiography, to delve more deeply into social, political or technological issues would not be appropriate.
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