This is a fascinating account of what is (or at least was) one of the most admired and respected companies, not just for its product reputation, but for its corporate culture and management style that was unique in its day, and copied by many others since.
The book chronicles how Hewlett and Packard started a bare-bones company in a one-car garage with a single product and grew it into a multi-billion dollar global corporation. Malone looks at their childhood years and how their unique life experiences shaped their personal characters and values, as well as the culture of the company that bears their name. It was most interesting to see how these men, friends from their Stanford years, but with very different, though complementary, personal styles, learned to work together in an attitude of complete trust, and to instill in their company a set of values known popularly as the HP Way. Malone, thankfully, does not view Bill and Dave through rose-colored glasses, but is realistic about their personal foibles as well. Numerous examples are provided to show how they learned from their mistakes and went on to re-invent themselves several times over in response to issues of growth, to changing product needs and to the business climate - all while keeping the core set of guiding values in tact. And it was encouraging to be reminded, that despite the enormous fame and wealth that came to them, they never forgot their beginnings, but became almost as well-known for their philanthropic efforts.
Although the majority of the book is devoted to the glory days of Hewlett and Packard, Malone also discusses HP under the subsequent leadership of John Young, Lew Platt, the recent disastrous six years under Carly Fiorina in which the HP culture was almost destroyed, and attempts to "fix" things under its current president, Mark Hurd.
This book was of particular interest to me, an HP employee from 1980 - 2000 in both its instrument and printer businesses, and provided a trip down nostalgia lane since I knew many of the players from the earlier days. Though not without its frustrations, HP was a great experience for me, especially in marked contrast to my earlier career in the aerospace industry.
If I could wish for something more, it would be to include a little more about Agilent, the 1999 spin-off instrument business which was, after all, HP's core business during the first few decades. But overall, the book is eminently readable and highly recommended to anyone interested in business, technology or ethics.