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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle Paperback – September 7, 2004


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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle + The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison + The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing’s Greatest Race, The America’s Cup
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743225058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743225052
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Softwar is a biography of Larry Ellison and his company, Oracle. As such, it's simultaneously a portrait of a clever and driven man, a case study of a successful software development company, and a tableau of the commercial software industry from its beginnings, through the dot-com craze, and into the present era. Matthew Symonds, who began this project while working as the editor of the excellent technology section of the Economist, has done a great job with all three elements of his project, thanks in no small part to the tremendous access he was given and to his close collaboration with Ellison.

Collaboration is very nearly the right word, as Ellison reviewed Symonds' manuscript before publication and, while he did not alter it, he did make a large number of comments, which appear in the book as footnotes. As Symonds is a good journalist who attributes most of his material, Ellison is able to take issue immediately with statements other people make about him and his company. The overall effect is hypertextual, and represents an important new biographical technique that other writers should imitate. Softwar succeeds because Ellison has a fantastically interesting life, tremendous experience, and carefully considered opinions, and because Symonds communicates them with clarity and style. --David Wall

Topics covered: The life, times, acquaintances, tastes, toys, and opinions of Larry Ellison, the database entrepreneur and CEO of Oracle Corporation. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Symonds was technology editor at the Economist when Ellison invited him to collaborate on a book about e-business, but the journalist decided he would rather write a profile of the software tycoon, one of Silicon Valley's most notorious figures. Oracle's database programs have become integral to the Internet and other networked computer systems, and Oracle's head is convinced that he can surpass Microsoft as the industry leader. But he's also developed a reputation for his aggressive corporate tactics and personal flamboyance. Ellison agreed to cooperate with the project, but as part of the deal, he reserved the right to respond, which he does in a series of running footnotes. Sometimes he only uses the opportunity to mouth business platitudes, but he also refutes stories, cracks jokes and even argues with other sources. Although the book deals extensively with Oracle's efforts to promote a new software package, it comes to life most when it follows Ellison outside the office-prepping his sailboat for a run at the America's Cup or overseeing the final touches on a Japanese garden complex. Symonds's near-total access to his subject leads to intimate observations that verge on personal advice, as when the writer suggests how best to handle a top Oracle executive or comments on the relationship between Ellison and his two children. But he remains objective enough to point out several mistakes in the past management of Oracle (many of which Ellison acknowledges or clarifies). Even without its unusual counterpoint, the book would stand as a compelling portrayal of one of the computer industry's most influential leaders.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Perhaps the best business book I have ever read!
J&T Norwood
Having Ellison comment on this is also very interesting read.
The Amazon Shopper
While I was reading this book, some guy tried to pick me up.
Rachel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Honko on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For years it seems like I've heard about Larry Ellison being the complete antithesis of Bill Gates while at the same time earning almost as much money. Knowing this about him and very little about Oracle, I decided it was time to look into it. "Softwar" appears to blend a few things that I find very desirable into one book.
First, its written by an independent observer-- Matthew Symonds of the Economist. While who can say whether this is truly an unbiased account, the vast majority of the book seems to portray Oracle in good light, but contains quips that allow the reader to see where all the Oracle detractors might have a point.
Second, Larry Ellison. When Symonds writes something or quotes someone (like Tom Siebel or other former employees) and Ellison disagrees, he gets to chime in and tell his side of the story through footnotes. After looking at so many books that just don't seem to have any proximity to Ellison, I chose this book mainly because you can get Ellison's rhetoric straight from the horses's mouth.
Third, if you read this book soon, the information will be more practical than books that seem to focus on interesting, but outdated info about a companies products or strategies. I personally knew nothing of Enterprise software or hardware other than hearing people complain about SAP. Now I at least have a semblence of knowledge about a field I'll probably end up at least working with.
If you want a book that puts Oracle in a good light while displaying its bad side at times and to hear mostly about Oracle with a brief biography of Ellison and how he commands the world's second largest software company, read it! PS I loved it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is a comprehensive, detailed collection of Larry Ellison anecdotes and quotes from people around him. Author Matthew Symonds occasionally interjects himself, but mostly lets his sources talk. Perhaps for fairness, he quotes many people who disagree with each other about important decisions at Oracle. Perhaps for journalistic objectivity, he generally refrains from judgment. This shows the reader every perspective, even if it doesn't define context, chronology or direction. You get all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, though you may want a clearer box top picture. Some of the technology coverage will intrigue only tech industry buffs, but overall you will learn a great deal of interesting information about Ellison and Oracle. We also found that Ellison's character came most into focus when the book entered the world of yacht racing, his passion. The author also includes poignant, revealing anecdotes about Ellison's childhood and candid reports about his personal life. Larry Ellison was allowed to review the manuscript and his comments appear as counterbalancing footnotes on many pages. That guy, he always does things a new way - as you will see.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By scanman7 on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very interesting book overall, paints larry in a very (probably almost too) positive light. (the author was selected by larry to write the book.) the most interesting part is that larry adds his own notes to the bottom of various pages. the parts about sailing at the end were sort of boring, but it's nice to know that larry is planning on donating to medical foundations when he retires from oracle.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Navarro on November 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very insightful look at a kindler and gentler Larry Ellison (as compared to the days when he talked about "cutting off the oxygen supply" of his competitors). Symonds has done a masterful job in explaining what the Oracle products are about. He has also captured the personality of an individual who has changed the software world in many ways. From the perspective of a database administrator and architect who has been involved with Oracle software over the last two decades, I find the account very illuminating, honest, interesting and entertaining. This is a book that I just could not put down once I started reading it!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Timothy S. Smith on February 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating book. I should note that I worked at Oracle for 12 years (1989-1991), though much too far down in the hierarchy to have had dealings with Larry Ellison himself. But when Symonds writes about the people that I did know and work for and with, he hasn't struck a single false note. He has captured very accurately the Oracle culture--a lot of very bright and very driven people, with of course a few inevitable mistakes thrown in.
In this book, Ellison comes over as one of the most insightful leaders in SV in the 80s and 90s. I wasn't always able to see this side of him, as I kept hearing negative reports from those who had been subjected to his (earlier, and admitted by him in this book to have been wrong) MBR (management by ridicule) approach.
I believe Symonds has done an accurate evaluation of Ellison, and Ellison, in his footnotes, comes over as a thoughtful person able to admit where he was wrong.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marlys J. Capra on August 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a more intimate portrait of the man himself. I wasn't interested in all the details of the company, I wanted to know about Larry and more of his personal life. It was like reading an electronic handbook.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Kopec on July 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
True to its subtitle Softwar does indeed deliver an 'intimate portrait' of billionaire business leader Larry Ellison. Unfortunately, although the book is enthralling and features an incredibly interesting format including written responses by Ellison to points raised by Symonds, it falls short in two important areas for biographies.

Firstly, Symonds is not objective - he clearly worked very closely with Ellison and certainly paints a more rosy picture of the complicated man than a more impartial observer may. Secondly, the structure of the book is lacking. The first section of the book (although it is not actually divided as a section) covers Ellison's business life chronoligically and perhaps in too detailed a manner to always remain interesting (there's an alphabet soup of executive names that are never heard from again). Then what I would consider the second section of the book jumps around from business to personal ventures and lacks a real 'feeling of time'. A more traditional fully integrated narrative of the personal and business sides to Ellison's life would perhaps have been superior since it's difficult to gage how much pressures in one area of Ellison's life are affecting the other.

Even with its flaws, Softwar is well written and comes as close to being autobiographical as a non-autobiography can. The subject himself is certainly interesting enough to warrant the 500 pages, and the unique response format is refreshing.
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