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Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft Kindle Edition
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|Length: 368 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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About the Author
Paul Allen was the billionaire technologist and philanthropist who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He was the chairman of Vulcan Inc. and founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. He owned the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, and was co-owner of the Seattle Sounders pro soccer team. He passed away in October 2018.
Visit www.paulallen.com--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B004CLYKM2
- Publisher : Portfolio (April 19, 2011)
- Publication date : April 19, 2011
- Language: : English
- File size : 7188 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 368 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #520,981 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I don't think people realize the other things he is doing - his brain project for instance - these are things that could and are having tremendous impact on humanity.
I came away with not only good insight, but certainly food for thought about much larger things. For one - when you read about the education he and Gates were getting in high school and junior high - it pales to mine and probably most others. I think it shows how the 'right' education, early enough, is really important.
I am reminded of Apple, which was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Wozniak was the engineer, and Jobs was the salesman. Without both of them, there never would have been an Apple Corporation. If you want Woz's story, read his book "iWoz".
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.
2)Paul Allen provides details on his days with Bill Gates at Lakeside school, Harvard, and Microsoft. When Paul Allen asked Bill Gates how large their software company could be, Bill replied "about 35 employees" and Paul Allen thought that was little ambitious.
3)The story of the founding and the early days of Microsoft was very engaging. It kept me up until 4am reading this book.
1)Where is the sage advice? What would have Paul Allen done differently? He takes a passive retroactive account of his past, and does not delve too much into the lessons he has learned from them.
2)Where is the analysis of the past, the current, and the future state of technology? I am especially interested on Paul Allen's take on technology's future 10-20 years down the road.
3)This book is missing huge parts of Paul Allen's life. Paul Allen writes mostly about his relationship with his parents and Bill Gates. I don't think one could categorize this book as a complete autobiography.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. This book is not written as a completely autobiography. Yet, it provides rich details on many things people would find interesting and engaging.
Very, very cool book and worth reading...
Top reviews from other countries
One point stood out to me during the Covid lockdown as I write. He writes about the construction of the Paul G Allen school for Global Animal Health with an important part of the school’s mission to build up Africa’s capabilities in responding to animal based diseases. Now that’s vision. Anyway it’s things like that make this book a very worthwhile read.
Incidentally Bill Gates did a TED talk about how unprepared the world is for an animal based decease a few years ago.
So for me, this book was mainly of interest because of Paul Allen's involvement in the early days of the personal computer.
The first few obligatory chapters about early years and parents were Ok reading, but when it got to his first encounters with Bill was where the book became fascinating. The next 8 or 9 chapters about the formation and success of Microsoft were literally thrilling reading, I could hardly put the book down.
However after Paul left Microsoft the story (for me) trails off. You go from reading about inside information about Microsoft, IBM, Xerox et. al. to an entire chapter about Basketball which bored me to tears. Then there's an entire chapter about American football which I largely skipped. There are a few interesting chapters after that about the X-Prize (I learned a lot of stuff from that), and there's a few chapters about Paul's failed efforts to get into the internet business.
So overall - 4 stars because the Microsoft years were absolutely enthralling. But the rest of it just felt like the ramblings of an unsatisfied multi-billionnaire. I'd have preferred a whole book about the softwar side of Paul and the Microsoft story in more depth.
I think you'll have to be a bit of a geek to be really gripped by the first half of this book as Allen and Gates struggle to code Microsoft to the top. The key watersheds in the history of the company are written about slightly dispassionately and you are given a flavour of the necessary ruthlessness that permeated the computer industry and obviously still does. Stuck for a good idea? Then go and steal one of your competitors'. (The current patent wars in technology are an indicator that copying is not a form of flattery.) Allen writes almost reluctantly, I felt, about his partner in crime, Bill Gates, and the picture painted isn't one that adds much warmth to one of the world's richest men. Allen, being the nice guy he seems to be, holds back about how he felt Gates stiffed him, dissed him and finally ignored him as Microsoft steamed towards world domination. The final assessment of Microsoft losing out to Apple, Google and the rest seem tinged with an element of glee. But it was Allen's baby too, so the affection is still there.
Halfway through the book and Allen is through with Microsoft, which somewhat surprised me. Was that it? Now as rich as Croesus, what should Allen do with his burgeoning cash pile? He likes basketball, so why not buy a team? And a football team. Build them a half billion dollar stadium on top, to play in. He could have become the ultimate sports mogul, but he's involved in every other project and distraction that comes his way. While Donald Trump wrote The Art of the Deal, Allen works hard on what seems to be the Fart of the Deal, and gamely recounts some of the exceedingly smelly and disastrous investments he made during the Internet years. One bad deal alone cost him $8 billion, while he admits in print that selling too quickly out of AOL cost him $40 billion. It must have been hard writing that sentence.
Allen lives in a different financial stratosphere to everyone except about a handful of individuals on the planet. He splurges cash everywhere. He sees his childhood cinema going to the dogs, so he just buys it and does it up. He liked Hendrix as a youth, so he basically buys everything from guitars to underpants that the man owned and then builds a museum to house them in. He builds a rocket to the moon. After a while, you really begin to think that Gates' philanthropy is an infinitely better deal. Eventually, and maybe inevitably, we get to his charitable work, but he skims over it really, in the same way he does with his battles with his health. The book leaves you with the feeling that Allen knows the clock is ticking and that he has so much to do. His wealth affords him boundless opportunities but, if you haven't got your health....
This was a very readable autobiography, a book of two halves maybe, but it always kept my interest.
Allen also claims to be the idea man behind MS Windows having seen the original Xerox Star computer with its GUI bitmapped display at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The development of MS Windows, the rivalry with Apple, the development of the MAC and then the MS Windows versions of Word and Excel would be another fascinating story. All we are told is that Allen was instrumental in the hiring of Charles Simonyi from Xerox - their expert in WYSIWYG word processor.
There is a great deal of detail about the £8 billion invested in Cable networks that Allen wrote off, but the reader is still left wondering how and why this all happened. Even for Allen $8B is quite a big chunk of cash.
I was originally going to give this book 3 stars, because it could, indeed should, have been an absolutely compelling read and it isn't. Nevertheless, Allen does relate snippets of the history of the Personal Computer Industry that are interesting enough to justify 5 stars at a pinch.
Note to Publisher: The table of contents in my edition says the index appears on page 347. There is no page 347 and there is no index which is a pity.
However, the book also documents Allen's time after Microsoft, when he has lived the billionaire's lifestyle - travelling to far-away places, buying a super-yacht and sports teams (pity he hasn't yet bought Man United off the Glaziers...), setting up a museum and playing guitar with the rock stars. But he's also also recovered twice from cancer, and he's contributed strongly to the human genome project. I nearly didn't bother with this section of the book, and I glad that I did because some of it is worthwhile and fascinating, though other parts are a little more than nauseating - or maybe I'm just jealous of such opulent wealth.